Tag: Daily Path

Shaman? No. Medicine Man? No. Druid? Maybe, but really I’m Just Me.

A few days ago, I got a question about whether I was on a Path of Shamanism. The easy answer to the question is no, I’m not. I work with a pair of First Nations Gods, but the path of First Nations’ folk is not mine. My work with Crow and Coyote goes in a different direction. So, what about Siberian Shamanistic practices? Nope, not there either. Shamanism ain’t me. In fact, there’s a lot of assumptions that people (both Pagan and non-Pagan) make when it comes to non-Christian Paths, and believe me I’ve heard quite a few of those tossed at me and applied to what I do.

I’m not a Shaman. Nor a Medicine Man. To be honest, I’m not even sure that the title of Druid can be absolutely applied to me. Yet, I am a Pagan. While I struggle with the application of the word towards me, I am a Priest. So, where does all that take me in my Spiritual life? Well, to be frank and honest – anywhere that I feel it applies to me. My Spiritual life carries me through dark, foreboding forests. My Spiritual life has me climbing rocky, rough terrain. My Spiritual life points me to walk beside cold, calming streams where dense forests populate either bank, while the sounds of wildlife are all around me. My Spiritual life inhabits me when I travel into the concrete jungles of large, modern cities, where the forests are replaced by tall buildings all around me, and the wildlife is replaced by cars and the detritus of human refuse.

In other words, my Spiritual life is everywhere that I go. I follow some of the traditions of the First Nations’ people, particularly in my offerings to Crow and Coyote. However, that’s as far as it goes. When I started working Crow, it was made very apparent to me that my work with them was not to be confused with being a part of the People. I am not First Nations. As I said, the same can be said concerning the perspective of being a “Shaman.” A Shaman refers to some very particular practices, usually by the peoples of the Siberian steppes. None of that is who I am and what I do here in this existence.

I am a Pagan. Nature is my daily signpost. I do believe in the existence of multiple Gods – quite a few, in fact. That’s the Polytheistic part of my beliefs. I don’t worship or work with all of Them. But the three I have chosen to work with – Crow, Coyote, and Abnoba – are an integral part of my daily Spirituality. For my Pagan friends who believe I should work with their Gods too – maybe in a one-time deal. Those three keep me busy enough as it is. For my monotheistic friends who believe that I live in a fantasy world – I understand why you feel that way. Honestly, this is my life. The experiences I have had point me here. I’m sure if your monotheistic Path were meant for me, I would have had similar experiences that you have had and be walking a similar Path to you. But I didn’t.

I am on a path of Druidry. Much of it has been an enlightening Path for me. I have learned how to take what I believe and place it within a context of the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids (OBOD). However, I have had to alter some of the material I have learned to remove the heavy and overt Celtic influences. I’m not on a Celtic Path. I do not interact with Celtic Gods and Goddesses. There is no call for me to wander down that Path within my Spirituality. To that degree, I do sometimes wonder if I can truly call myself a Druid. I refuse to wear white robes of any sort (I ain’t trying to be some mystical “Merlin” figure, and white robes on a white guy have some bad context here in the southern United States). In fact, I refuse to even wear a robe. My idea of what makes good “ritual garb” amounts to a green cloak, a Grateful Dead t-shirt, a pair of heavily worn jeans, and hiking boots. Trust me, I have seen the “looks” I am given when I come to ritual.

Here’s the ultimate result of all of that. I could give one on-fire fuck what others might think of my Path. I’m the sucker that must walk it. Every fucking day. Without fail. I’m not a Shaman. Don’t even want to be one. I’m not a Medicine Man. I don’t even have the balls to try and PRETEND to be one. I have made friends with Medicine Men and Medicine Women. I sure the fuck ain’t them. I’m not a Celt. Not my thing. Not my Path. I’m not a Shaman either. Don’t even want to be one or play one on television. No, like it or not – I’m a Pagan. I’m a Polytheist. I follow a path of Druidry….but even that cloak doesn’t completely fit. But here’s what I do know – I’m me. Unashamed. Unafraid. Awkwardly walking my Path daily. I trip. I fall. I scrape my knees from time to time. I will lay on the ground and cry over my stupidity, my pain, and my bad decisions. However, once all that gets out of my system, I will get back up and continue. Why? Because my Path is about experiencing the world around me. Good, bad, beautiful, ugly. Its my Path. Its my Life. It ain’t always pretty, but sure as shit – its here every single day. My Path is not for everyone. Its for me. I share things about what happens so that others can see some of the mistakes I have made along the way – and some of the successes – and decide for themselves if they want to walk the same Path as me, even if its just for forty feet.

Yes, as you read the above – I do get aggravated when people paint me with labels and descriptives. Even when the labels and descriptives fit all too perfectly. But its not just because I hate labels. Its because I would really prefer and sit down to have a conversation about our differences. To be able to sit on the porch, or in the backyard, or around a late-night fire and hold a conversation while drinking whatever our drink of choice is at that moment (I could go for a Slush Limeade from Sonic right about now). Paint me with your descriptives after the conversations. Attach your labels to my jeans (preferably on the butt so I don’t see them right away) when we’re done talking. But, please, let’s have the conversation first. We’ve gotten so far away from conversation as a means of communicating with people with whom we stand shoulder-to-shoulder with on the tube.

–Tommy /|\ <–Just me

“If fools had a country, I think I’d wear the crown.” –Black ‘N Blue, ‘Two Wrongs Don’t Make It Love”

Incomplete Thoughts on Baseball, Empirical Pagan Me, and Nature

Incomplete Thoughts – 07102021

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

Major League Baseball

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

Empirical Pagan Me

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

Herbs, Plant Magick and the Such

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

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

–Tommy

Photo by Alvaro Espinosa on Pexels.com

Thinking About: Offerings

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

Why Offerings

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

Ritual

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

What to Offer

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

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

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

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

–Tommy

Going Back to Mesa Verde

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Tommy

Oops!…I Screwed Up Ritual (Again)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Tommy

Thinking About: Living Intentionally

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

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

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

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

What Is It?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where to Go From This Point?

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

–Tommy

Thinking About: Trees

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Tommy

Promises in the Dark

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Tommy

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 /|\

Quarantine Has Changed Some Routines

As most of the states, if not all of them, are working through issues of opening back up – I thought it might be interesting to take a look at this from my own perspective. Both from a personal point of view, as well as the way this changes some of the approach to my daily Path. After all, its a bit apparent that the COVID-19 issue is going to be around for quite a bit of time longer.

A Touch of Background

Most folks who read this blog or know me in person are aware that I have some health issues that make me quite susceptible to the COVID virus. I am a Type-II diabetic, which compromises my immune system to a great degree. I was also stricken with Pneumonia a little over a year ago, which also brought on an aspect of kidney disease thanks to the drugs that I was administered during that illness. So, my respiratory system is still being built back up, but it will never be as strong as it was. Respiratory issues are another factor in being susceptible to the virus. My kidney failure issues add to the strain on my immune system, making that particular weakness even more glaring. And I’m not much of a spring chicken at the age of fifty-four either – though everything I have read, the virus is more susceptible to individuals about a decade older than I am. So all of this informs me to remain away from others as much as possible, as well as continue to take the precautions that were in place during Texas’ shelter-in-place mandate.

Changes in Personal Routines

I used to not give being in public a second thought. Granted, large crowds make me nervous beyond the Nine Hells, but I could traverse in public without a thought. Nowadays, I have to be a little more prepared when I go out into the public. I carry my inhaler with me wherever I go. Normally, I carried it with me when I was doing some sort of strenuous activity. Not anymore, I just cannot take the chance of being any distance beyond my physical person. I carry a mask with me wherever I am. I have a mask here on my desk, another in my truck, and two more that I have stashed in each of my to-go bags (read: backpacks). Inside the truck or the house, I do not wear the mask. However, once I step outside of the truck or even take a walk around the block – the mask goes on. I do realize that its not 100% effective at keeping droplets carrying the virus at-bay, but whatever percent it is – its certainly better than zero.

Because of my health conditions, I do try and work out as much as I can. It helps with my diabetes, and keeps my blood-flow at a somewhat healthy state. Plus, my fat ass could certainly use the sweat equity. I spend most of that time in the house – mainly in my office. I ride my Peloton bike as much as I can, and have even started incorporating some small weight-lifting into the daily regimen. I do get outside and walk around the block, and always wear a mask doing so. I don’t come into direct contact with anyone…but better to be cautious.

Changes in Spiritual Routines

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

In the past, I used to spend time in the morning greeting the sun, by standing in the backyard. I still get up around sunrise, but rarely do I head outside. My typical greeting comes with me standing at my west-facing window and watching the growth of the morning shadow of the house – followed by the slow shrinking of the mid-day sun. Again, I try not to be out of the house for too much. My daily routine has always been to thank the Gods for Their guidance at mid-day, and I still carry this out. In the past, I did this at my stone circle in the backyard. Since the move, I have not had the chance to get outside and rebuild the stone circle. Perhaps that’s something I might need to take the opportunity to do so. Just not right now. Instead, at mid-day, I stand before the little icon of Gaia that you see in this picture, which has found its own spot on the same smaller bookshelf in my office. In the late night, I added a period of meditation since the quarantine period. It is this time where I seek the guidance of my Gods…Tricksters They may be, but I can always find some wisdom in what They provide to me. Even if I am the butt of Their jokes from time to time. I’ve gotten quite used to the sophomoric pranks. While its not as ideal as I want it to be, much of these changes to my practice have been necessary for me.

What About You?

Have you found yourself making alterations and changes to your own Spiritual practice? Perhaps, you’ve reached a blocked point where you are not sure how to proceed with making changes. I’ll provide a piece of advice – take it or leave it as you see fit. Making changes to your Spiritual practice is similar to making changes to your daily routine. Try it. Give it a chance and do it for a short bit. See if it works. If it doesn’t, go back to the way you did it before – if you can. If you can’t go back – try something different. The worst that can happen is that you need to change it again. If you need to, give it a shot…see if it helps.

–T /|\

Thoughts on a Personal Approach to Daily Practice (aka The Ramen Way)

Well, I am a Pagan. I am a Polytheist. I am a member of a Druid order. All of that is a part of who I am, how I approach my daily routine and the manner in which I find a connection with the wider world around me. I am not here to rebuild or reconstruct ANYTHING. Nor am I here to slam anyone who does use that approach for their own Pagan practices. In fact, I would like to applaud them for finding that works for them. And as much as I would love for some of them to stop slamming others for not following their approach, I am going to try my dead-level best not to do so. Why? Well, let’s explore that a bit, shall we?

RamenEvery so often, it seems to pop up in my news feed…how we need to do ritual this way in order to be “authentic”. We need to follow what the research of others has shown us as the “proper” way to do our rites. Otherwise, we are doing it wrong, and we have no right to call ourselves “[insert whatever descriptive you need here]”. Usually, the constant re-cycle and re-hash of this manifest in a three-to-four year cycle. Twelve to fifteen years ago, I would roll up my sleeves, adjust my personal Bulletin Board armor, lower my lance, and charge right at that windmill. Or ferocious Giant. I forget which. Anyway, I would charge right in, ready to argue the merits against the concept of such “standards” within Pagan belief systems. I would receive a response a day or two later, and off we went dancing our dance. Well, the internet makes such communications much faster. And the days of the old Bulletin Board systems were shouldered out of the way by the Twitters, Facebooks and various blogging platforms of today.

The “right” way. Sounds familiar, eh? Yeah, fundamentalist perspectives. Especially when dealing with concepts such as the Divine, the Sacred, the literal essence of our Spirituality. How do we appease the Gods? How do we contact Them? How do we curry favor with Them? Well, we should use what is tried and true, eh? What our ancestors did. We should handle our daily rites in the same fashion. using the same methods, the same words, the same phrasing, the same approaches. I completely understand the need for all of this for folks who utilize this and find usefulness from it. There is not one thing wrong with that. For them.

I have talked about this before throughout this blog, my approach is far more eclectic, and to some degree more utilitarian. Off-the-cuff ritual formulas are not uncommon for me. While I am unlikely to call the North while facing West, it *could* happen. I am not ready to rule that out, changing the correspondences of the cardinal directions. What feels “right” at that moment, I am willing to use (short of harming people, animals, plants, etc etc). I have my limits, those places where it becomes a bridge too far. But I am willing to step up, place my toes at the very edge and stare down into the abyss. Reconstructionist, I am not. Nor would I consider myself a fundamentalist. My rules are a little more malleable and flexible than those of others.

See, I look back at what those that have come before have done. I see their efforts as a framework to start with, a place of inspiration. An initial step on the Path, if you will. But this time is now, not then. The times have evolved. The Gods have evolved as well. We have evolved. Our understanding of the connectivity with the world around us is different than it was during the time of our ancestors. Nine Hells, our understanding is different than it was a year ago, five years ago, a decade…we are ever-evolving. My rites are moments of devotion, awe-inspired clarity, a celebration of our connection with the Gods and/or Goddesses that call us.

I am not sure about you, but the same old thing every single rite; the same gestures, the same words, the same timing, the same…everything….that gets rather rote, boring and stale after a while. Sort of like my younger, far more broke days of eating Ramen noodles every night for dinner. You just cannot beat five packs for a dollar, in terms of frugality, especially in those tights of paycheck to paycheck living. No offense to the reconstructionists and the fundamentalists out there, but I am not ready to turn my rites, daily or otherwise, into five packs for a dollar Ramen meal. Sure, it worked way back before, and to be honest, I can spice that same Ramen pack up with some added fresh vegetables, a little bit of meat, and some spices. The basic ingredient is still there, that little rectangular brick of noodles – all screaming for hot water and release. But look at all the extra stuff that got added: vegetables, spices, protein…and what if, every once in a while, we left out the Ramen?

I think you can see why fundamentalist anything does not appeal to me. And its fairly clear that a reconstructionist’s territory is somewhere I do not belong. And there is still nothing wrong with either side of that. So long, as we agree that there is no one, singular way to approach our individual approach to the Gods. Or even to how we perceive the Gods. The fundamentalist and reconstructionist approaches do not work for me. I can speak of the hows and the whys that neither appeal to me. I can even provide a narrative, as I have here, about why my approach is better. For me. I have the answers for me. But the honest truth is that the only person who has the truth for you is you. You know what speaks to you, what gets you excited about being under the moonlight (this serious moonlight), participating in the rites to your God(s) and/or Goddess(es). If the reconstructionist path or the fundamental path work for you…awesome. For me…let’s sway, under the moonlight. This serious moonlight. And if you say run, I’ll run with you. And if you say hide, we’ll hide. Probably somewhere in the cabinet. Behind the packs of Ramen.  –T /|\

Four Tablespoons of Pagan, Please

As I sit and watch another round of an “are you Pagan enough?” diatribe taking place on the interwebs, I am reminded of what makes me a Pagan, and why a yard-stick measurement argument rings so hollow to me. A lot of this back-and-forth arguing sounds so much like church services to me. A competition based on how holy you were, presented through the lens of clothing, singing, standing, and tithing.

Back when I was exploring the Christian side of things, I recall how the Wednesday evening and Sunday morning services at the Southern Baptist church I was attending was like. The older folks would arrive on Wednesday evenings in their business casual attire, straight from work. Sundays would be reserved for the coat and tie or the proper, conservative blouse and dress. Those of us fresh out of high school, or still in high school, would show up in torn-up jeans and t-shirts or if our families were attending church, in nice slacks and polo shirts on Sundays. Most of us were frowned upon because we did not dress the part of the penitent Christian, desiring to be all-dressed-up for Christ.

During the church services, there was another silent contest going as well – who could sing the hymns the loudest, with the prettiest voices, and without looking in the hymnal. And who could rise and sit at the appropriate moments during the service as well. Rarely did I stand. I always figured that if the Christ was going to look into my heart and decide if I was an appropriate member of his “flock”, he would be able to do whether I stood, sat, or laid down in the middle of the aisle and took a nap. And singing? Shit…if you have heard me sing, you know why I don’t do so in public. I could easily be considered a deadly weapon.

All of that aside, none of that was about following the edicts of what Christian was about. It was a pissing contest to see who could pee the furthest up the hill. Noe of that determines whether you are a good Christian or not. But all of that, and a fiver in the offering plate will definitely have the pastor openly stating that you are punching your ticket to heaven. Yeah. Pure bullshit. if you really want to find the individual following the teachings of the Christ, look for the person who volunteers in the soup kitchens to feed the poorest of those among us. Look for the individual who stops what they are doing in their own lives to provide their energy, ability, and thoughtfulness to those who are alone. There you have someone following the teachings of the Christ.

Ok, three paragraphs of examples of issues relating to Christianity…all as a manner to drive a point home about Pagans. Silly, isn’t it? Here I am painting a picture of Christianity done wrong and right so I can showcase an issue about why its silly to try and determine if someone is “Pagan enough or not”. And all of that really showcases another issue we have – and I didn’t even intend to do this – how we constantly find ways to set unintentional (or even intentional) measuring sticks of Paganism against Christianity. I should delete all of that and rewrite this so it is not there, but I am going to leave it – because it really does help drive a secondary point home. Doing what I just did above to provide a parallel perspective of Paganism and Christianity really isn’t necessary.

What does being “Pagan enough” really mean? Should I set a yardstick of myself against Chris, John or Lauren when it comes to working in ritual? These three are the most brilliant ritualists I know. My skills at doing ritual pale deeply in comparison to any of these three. Does that make me any less of a ritualist than they are? Does it make me less of a Pagan because I do not have their skills at doing rites to praise the Gods and Goddesses? Do the Gods and Goddesses care that deeply about my deficient skillset?? And if They do, would They not convey that to me? Does it make me any less of a Priest than any of these three? Or is the true measure of who we are as individual Pagans what we have in our hearts, what burns deep within our souls, and the callings that we feel? Can we distill that down to a liquid, vapor or a powder that we can then measure against someone else?

Does that not sound absolutely silly to you? It does to me, nearly as silly as my three paragraphs above trying to make a pound for pound comparison between some similar comparative, competitive nonsense that I experienced within Christianity as this within Paganism. I really have no real desire to hold your head in my hands, look into your eyes, and try to measure the “Paganism within you.” I would say, that if you feel deficient in what you are doing in your daily Pagan practice, take a few minutes to examine what you are doing – and determine how you can put more of who you are into what you are doing. If that means holding your own personal rite in your backyard at each full moon, go for it. if it means waking up earlier in the morning and greeting the Sun as part of your daily practice, go for it (its what I started doing a few years back). If it means taking up Yoga for thirty minutes each day and spending that time in thoughtful meditation through each of the poses, go for it. Whatever it is, make sure it has meaning FOR YOU and TO YOU. And only you can be the true measure of what that really is, and how it gets measured. Just sayin’….   –T /|\

 

If You Want to Predict the Future, Live it With Your Eyes Wide Open

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

I read a lot. Probably more than I should. And rarely is it just stuff on Paganism or Druidry. usually, it is about History, particularly the history of computing. One of my favorite books is What the Dormouse Said” by John Markof which goes into lengthy detail about how the world of experimental drug use helped some of the visionaries of the computer dream up some of the stuff that we take for granted. One of the people chronicled in the book is Alan Kay, to whom the quote that stirred this post is attributed to. There is some debate as to whether he really stated such, but it eventually became the working maxim of Xerox PARC, where much of the computing world’s innovations grew from.

If you want to predict the future, invent it.

Which is quite literally, what they did at Xerox PARC. So, what does this have to do with a blog on Paganism and Druidry? Well, if you have read this for any length of time, you know that I take long looks into my own personal past. I have never claimed to be a Saint or any type of visionary. I have helped out in a handful of causes within the United States military to help further religious equality. When I left the US military, others stepped up and took my place and continued pushing forward. My contributions, however small those may be, are a part of the legacy I leave behind.

Standing still and looking back is nice, but coming back to Kay’s point – what about tomorrow? I turn fifty-three later this year (much later this year), and I have no desire to shuffle off this mortal coil any time in the future. As a wider-arching community, we stand in a whirling dervish of confusion, anger, miscommunication, and pain. When I try to see forward, that miasma clouds what may happen, what might be, what can be – and that makes the footing uncertain. what can I do to help leave my Pagan community a better one than when I arrived in the middle of the Witch Wars of the late 1980s?

To be extremely explicit here, I am no savior. I won’t be the individual that solves all the problems of the world. In fact, I see myself as nothing more than an extremely minor character in the world around me. I blog. I write my thoughts out here for others to read. My readership is fairly small. What impact can I have? I have no desire to be a “famous-Amos” in the Pagan community. I truly just want to be me – a simple Priest of Crow, a Druid on a Path to honor the Gods, just me. I am not a shining beacon of hope. I am no paragon of virtue, no hero of true deeds. Every day, I ask what it is that I can do to help make my Pagan community better. And every day, I hear the same things in the back of my mind:

Get involved. Just be you. Your contribution is to be yourself. Your future is to walk your Path and to stumble and fall. And then to get back up, dust off your cloak, and continue your Path.

Is it really just that simple? Just get up in the mornings and greet the Sun? Get out in the backyard and pour my offerings to the Gods? To say the words, make the gestures, and pour my soul into what I believe? Surely, there is a quest that I can undertake? There is a fight that I can be a part of?

And then the response comes:

What about getting involved? Get off your ass and get back into your community. You are a solo Pagan. Being solo means you walk your Spiritual Path by yourself. That is who you are, but you do not walk your daily Path in life by yourself. You cannot and will not survive like that. There are no heroic quests to undergo. There is no ring to carry. No tremendous burden that needs to be placed on your shoulders. You want a quest? SHOW people what it means to be a Pagan. BE who you are, but no one can see that just through your words.

Yeah. Getting dressed down by your God is never an awesome thing. Nor is it a great thing to realize that you have been eating too much of the fantastic world of Fantasy novels, where the common character becomes an uncommon hero by having some heavy burden or quest placed upon them. Life is not a quest to throw the One Ring into the volcano. And real Life is not a constant struggle against the Orcs or the difficulties of traversing the mines of Moria.

So what does the future hold for me? I really cannot say for sure. As I noted, the way forward is cloudy. But then, the future is always an uncertain thing to predict. Sure, I can follow Key’s maxim and try to ‘invent’ my way through it. But then, isn’t the future always going to be a product of invention? We are never sure of the way forward and have to take the steps to see if the footing is firm and sure. Inventing is – for me – a rather poor word choice for this. Perhaps, a little editing and mending might be more appropriate.

If you want to predict the future, live it.

After all, finding out what the future holds means walking through the mists and discovering what lies beyond. And for me, that means shedding some of the illusions of being some form of hero in all of this. As has been noted before, the Storm is here. The dervish has pulled all of us into it to one degree or another. We have all experienced some of the chaotic winds that it provides. And for me, I have stumbled and fallen from my Path. Time to right myself, dust off my cloak, pick up my staff and continue doing what it is that I should be doing. There are some unpredictable aspects to all of this, including how to get back into my wider Pagan community, which means trying to see how and where I fit in. And being an individual that is not very good at public, social situations – that means pushing myself into areas where I am uncomfortable. I have no desire to predict the future, but to find out what the future holds – I have to live it. And I have to live it with my eyes wide open.

–T /|\

Walking your Path may sometimes require you to turn back and walk a stretch of your journey that you have already walked previously. Turning back and covering ground you previously tread is not an invitation to become a sentry walking a post.  Sooner or later, you need to continue making forward progress on your Path. You are trying to add experience and sensation into your life, not become a guard.  –TommyElf

Lather, Rinse, Repeat – When Daily Practice Becomes Dull Routine

From time to time, I find myself stagnating on my own daily Path. Let’s face it, the same old thing day-in and day-out can be a dull drag at times. Plus, I have run across folks who have this odd belief that when you work directly with a set of Gods, that life is full of excitement – like a Laura Croft adventure. The truth, its nothing like that. Sometimes, life, and even daily practice can fall into a rut of routine. The same offerings, the same prayers, the same tasks – lather, rinse, repeat. No ancient temples to explore, no epic tasks to complete which Bards will sing and regale the tales of. Just the same prayers, the same offerings, the same everything. Surely, a monastic life might offer a bit more, right?

But. I am not living a monastic life. I even have problems describing myself as a “Priest” at times (see earlier posts in this blog, if you’re interested in that). I am claimed by Crow. I do walk my Path frequently with Coyote at my side. And I still have coquettish flirtations with Flidais. These Three are in my life daily. But its not a glamorous thing. I do my devotions and prayers to each. I occasionally get my direct communications with each. Occasionally, I am given work to do. But I’m not becoming a wild activist trying to destroy oil pipelines or foresting equipment (though there is nothing wrong, in my eyes, with either of these things – particularly where Native peoples are brushed aside as if they were sub-human so that these activities can be done on their lands). I don’t lead a group; its not my calling, so I am essentially a Priest of one (which is where I think it should be, but that’s a blog post for another time). What I do, is continually explore who I am, what I am to be, and the connections between myself and the world around me. And all of that wrapped up with my devotionals to the Three that are in my Life.

And that routine does get dull. Like I said, not glamorous…nothing like people seem to bring about in their minds when they hear that you work with the Gods. Sometimes, that routine gets off-putting too. I have had thoughts during these long stretches of routine….

What the Nine Hells are you doing?  ::What I am called to do::

Do you really believe this stuff?  ::With all my heart and soul::

Wouldn’t it just be easier to go with the flow and worship a dead man on a tree like everyone else around you?  ::Sure, but I would be betraying what is in my heart and essentially living a lie, just for the sake of convenience::

…and there’s more. But these will provide the tip of the spear, so to speak. I do have a mind that will doubt what I am believing, and question what I am experiencing. And all of that is part of the doldrums of the constant routine. I do crave new experience. I do seek out adventure. I do want to feel the rush of being somewhere new, experiencing something I’ve not been through before….and to be bluntly honest, there are times where I seek to be a Gandalf the Grey – constantly in battle against the evil of the world. But that’s the TV shows, the movies, and the books. And I do have to remind myself of this from time to time.

Life is not an adventure to destroy the One Ring and free this existence from an unimaginable evil. If it were, I would have already cut Donald Trump’s finger from his hand, with wedding ring still on it, and found an active volcano to throw that digit and ring into. But life is not that way. Instead, I bide my time until Donnie comes up for a vote, and will actively campaign against his re-election – provided that the Democrats will provide a candidate worth my vote.

But all of that is just an example – not what the post is about. My daily devotionals and prayers are my focus that connect me with Crow, Coyote, and Flidais. This is a daily process that keeps me grounded in what I believe, and what I experience. Yes, the same thing over and over can get dull, and begin to feel quite routine – until I start to examine the process in a bit more detail. An offering of a small shot of whiskey to Flidais. A handful of birdseed left in honor of Crow. Five minutes of a late evening staring up at a large, bright full moon to remind me that Coyote and I see the same thing that evening. Each offering has its own meaning, and each prayer said over those offerings can be changed ever so slightly – to make it new, and refreshing. And sometimes, rather than a prayer – an offering of a song or a poem. All of that changes the moment, redirects the energy from a long programmed direction, and adds a feeling of newness – without changing too much of the process so that it becomes unrecognizable.

Much like this morning’s small rainfall (less than .01 of an inch) provided a change to the local environment from the past few days, making small changes to my prayers and offerings is a refreshing draught against an oppressive heat of routine. The change of the process brings me new focus, allows for a different feel in the energies I put into my devotionals. I like to believe that it provides a much needed change in the interaction between myself and my Three from Their end as well. Personally, I think its far better than the same old routine…turning my devotionals and prayers into something as programmed as washing my hair. Rinse, lather, repeat.

Life as a Long Hike

As I noted in a previous post, some of the minor themes in a talk given by Starhawk at Pantheacon this year have brought interesting conceptual thoughts to my mind. One of the more interesting ones was looking at one’s life-time journey as a hike. A really long hike.

Now, I enjoy walking. I get a chance to wander and accomplish what I call “walking meditation” where I can literally turn a single thought over and over in my mind as I walk. Lately I have not done a lot of these, and I really do need to change that. But that is a thought for another time. Using a hike as a metaphor for life was certainly an intriguing thought. There are all sorts of things that can be utilized in hiking that can be brought over to looking at one’s journey in life.

Pathway in Mesa VerdeFor instance, probably the easiest one to bring into focus is the ups and downs of life relayed into the hiking of hills and valleys on a path. I walked a rather long trail in Mesa Verde National Park. The start of the trail was up a steep hill to get closer to the cliff-side nearest to me. Once there, the trail hugged against the cliff-side, and narrowed considerably. The drop-off into the valley below was extremely steep and at times a sheer drop-off. At other times, the path passed through very narrow passageways between large boulders and the cliff wall. It was along this pathway and through one of these passages that I encountered Crow, which I can describe in no other way than an initiation of sorts. At one point, the trail scaled straight up a cliff wall, which – for me, as an individual with an acute fear of heights – was quite harrowing indeed. But thinking back along the lines of a hike as a metaphor for life….makes perfect sense.

The steep climb at the start of the hike, is quite similar to the initial steps one takes in life or even a Spiritual Path. We do not necessarily know exactly where things are or how definitions to certain terminologies or concepts can map into our own lives; so there’s a rather acute struggle. Or if you prefer, a climb of sorts. As we accumulate knowledge and understanding, we build on each concept and build and grow our application of that to our own lives.

But hills and valleys can have other meanings as well. The height of a hill can be a positive moment in our lives. Where we reach the pinnacle of some aspect. Everyday life seems to be in harmony with anything we do or try. We feel the awesome joy of accomplishment, able to look outwards at all that is our life, and survey the beauty of everything that is there. The valley, with its downward momentum, can have the feeling of riding in a vehicle without brakes. Gaining speed at every moment, careening dangerously along the path; a certain painful, and sudden stop that may certainly be in our very near future. Our demeanor reaches depths of sorrow and despair, as if our immediate world is being torn asunder. And we know that once we reach the bottom with our painful, injurious stop accomplished, that our future will require a slow, difficult climb to reach the heights. At times, we can feel like laying at our stopped location in the valley, staring up at the sky with despair that we will once again have to expend the energy to achieve what we once had. And we know that the top of the coming climb will provide a different vantage – similar to the previous one we had – but different all the same. Each individual person will have to determine whether they feel that such a climb is still within who they are.

And then, there is the narrow pathway that I found along my Mesa Verde walk. There were places where the path lead down a very steep, and short dirt path to the cliff edge. The drop off was certain life-threatening. A single misstep could potentially spell outright doom for me. Every step was carefully determined, each handhold was carefully tested to insure I had a strong grip, and that the handhold would hold enough to keep my pudgy ass from pulling me over the edge. Believe me, that the cliff edge was very much on my mind. We do much the same thing throughout our lives. We make plans for this or that; we make preparations for how we are going to accomplish these tasks. We make plans and preparations for our rituals. We decide where and what we are trying to accomplish. And sometimes, that narrow Path is the only way forward we have. Its not the yards-wide Path with smooth dirt or concrete or asphalt that we would prefer. Its rocky, uneven, and fraught with ways for us to trip and fall. We take our steps slowly, trying to keep our balance, and our footing. We navigate our way through some aspects of our lives in careful, measured steps. Where we have walked many times before, we might make quicker steps – faster decisions – sure of our footing or our position. And we might find an unknown root in our way, ensnaring the toe of our boots, and sending us sprawling face first into the Path. What else is there to do, then pick up our wounded pride, check for injuries, dust the dirt off our clothes, and move forward – looking more carefully?

So, there are certainly ways to see Life as a long, long hike. We get a little cocky on our walk, trip and fall in places where we seemed to be certain of our footing. In other areas, we are acutely aware of the drop-off at the cliff’s edge, and tread far more carefully. But the true measure of our hike is not how far we’ve managed to walk. That comes from looking around us. Seeing the environment within which we’ve walked. During my walk along the Petroglyph Point Trail in Mesa Verde, I was struck by how beautiful the views were from my side of the wide valley. The land rolled outwards from my vantage point, moving hundred of yards in distance until the other side of the valley rose sharply from the ground. Once I got far enough away from people, I could see deer – or they might have been antelope – down in the valley below me, searching for food and water in the brush far below. Crows cawed from the trees above me, and Hawks soared on the thermals in the skies above. There is so much to what happens around us in Life as well. People come and go in our lives. Some stay and walk the Path with us from time to time. Some stay longer than others. All of them touch our lives to some degree, even if just momentarily.

Life is a long hike. But its not the distance that matters most. Its what we experience along that distance that matters the most. Those experiences make us who we are. Steep climbs; long valleys; thin trails; deer trods that we can barely see; extremely wide, paved paths – all of it provides the trail. But what we encounter on the trail, and just off the trail adds to what makes our Life experiences. And from my own perspective, those experiences are the treasured aspects of who and what I am.

 

Circling Back to Pantheacon

So let us take a few steps back. Its not that far in time – just back to Pantheacon of this year. I do enjoy attending Pantheacon to meet people and see folks that I don’t always get the chance to. But I also get the opportunity to sit in on panels and listen to people talk about topics that I normally don’t twirl around in the pink mist. this year, there was a lot of talk about death, change and renewal – which only slightly touches the areas I would normally think of. Turns out, each one of those panels and talk were precursors for a lot of study that I am currently wading through. Yah for team Synchronicity! But there was a lot of talk about difficult times as well, and one panel in particular proved to be quite interesting:  Starhawk‘s “Crossing Stony Ground”.

Much of the panel was geared towards the current political upheaval that is going on across the United States. But I am not a terribly political animal, so much of that was material that did not quite call to me. However, pieces of these little mini discussions did have threads that I pulled away…and I am going to try something different here. Usually, I try to condense all this into a paragraph that talks about each point. Instead of that, I will recreate the bullet-point notes that I took.

  • “create a circle” – watch chaos
  • do not compartmentalize your Spirituality
  • band together – work together – build what we envision
  • take action for your environment
  • do not divide Spiritual and Political – use together for action
  • restrengthen Druidry connections with your environment
  • Add your passions to your daily life
  • Ups and downs in Life are like hiking trails
  • Practice your grounding daily
  • Put your devotionals at the forefront of your mind when doing those
  • Find your center and your calm during tumultuous moments
  • Feel your anger and your sorrow when they occur but do not dwell on them for too long
  • No “us” – No “them” – there is “We“. There is “All“. We rise together – we survive together – we fall separatedwe fall individually.
  • PLP – Plain Language Programming – watch what you say or repeat.
  • Empty your backpack! Carry only what you need. Do not anticipate issues – carry only for issues that you know. Improvise for unknown situations. “We travel lite – we hunt!”
  • The Storm is here. Be ready to help where you can. The Storm affects everyone.

Now, all of these are what I gleaned from the conversations. Very little of what is written here is what was directly stated. Much of it is parts of conversations that meant something to my mind when I heard it, and written as it pertained to me. Well, I guess I should explain a bit more of why I wrote these things this way.

This was the one panel that I had circled in my conference book let and had a single note written next to it: “Clear your mind, open your senses.” What I was reminding myself was to ground, center, and clear my thoughts prior to the start of the panel. I wanted to listen carefully to what Starhawk (and others) had to say. I also wanted to open my thoughts to allow what was said to form in my mind as I wrote notes. My intention was to take these notes and bring this into my daily routines, rituals and practice. What I wound up coming away with was some of that, but also a lot of reinforcement for what I was already doing. I wasn’t really prepared to hear all of that. I was expecting to get a list of “new”, “shiny”, “unknown” things that I had never thought of before.

Circles and Chaos

The first point that is written here comes from the very first moments of the panel. The chairs were all lined up on opposite sides of the room, and Starhawk asked all of us to move our chairs into a circle. After a few minutes of people moving chairs, trying to find appropriate spacing from others, and a few others attempting to direct the process, she called for everyone to have a seat. What we accomplished was much closer to the shape of a football than a circle. Her ensuing point was that vague directions – “make a circle” – will provide vague results. The panel’s concept of “crossing stony ground” was about moving with intention and purpose through chaotic times. Intention and purpose will never find results from vague instructions, weak wording, and open-ended definitions.

From this point, she pivoted into an area I have far too much practice at – compartmentalizing. For a long time in my life, I have had two sides of me – two compartments of who I am. On one side is who I am to the outside, public world. Just an average working schmoe. I live a generic life in the eyes of these people. I do my job, I go home at night and watch tv. On the weekends, I hang out with friends, and watch baseball or soccer on tv. When I am away from work, I get to be the Pagan that I am. I can openly embrace my beliefs around my friends, who are more like my extended family. There’s nothing to set off to the side. There’s no barrier there. But that double-life, the two “me”s are constantly in conflict with one another. Until I decided to start letting the two aspects merge into one. But only to a point. I don’t talk about the Druid I am at work. Many people would not understand, and there would be too many things to try and explain. So I still compartmentalize to a degree here. But I no longer hide the fact that I am a Druid, or the fact that I am a Pagan. I just choose not to advertise it openly. Its not a perfect merging, but its better than it was – and I have removed some of the stony ground that I walk upon.

Much of the rest of what I wrote is stuff that I already handle within my life to some degree or another. I’m not the greatest in the world at some of this stuff. But I certainly do try my best. However, three things really stuck out for me, and I will write more on these in the coming days:  Life as a Long Hike, No Us/Them, and Plain-Language Programming. Each one of these points has led me down some interesting deer trods in my mind. I’m looking forward to exploring these a little further with all of ya’ll here in the blog.

–T /|\

Lead, Follow or Make Your Own Way

Lead, follow or get out of the way.

When I was in the military, my first direct supervisor imprinted this in my mind as the best way to make my way through the United States Air Force. And honestly, it is quite a true statement. Making my way through a regimented society – and the military most definitely is a regimented society – was most easily accomplished by either taking charge, following those in charge, or stepping aside and letting others handle the situation. My biggest problem was dragging this into the civilian world when I left the military.

Occasionally, I hear this same concept handled in regards to dealing with one’s own Spiritual Path. Either step up and take charge of being within a group, step aside and follow the lead of others in a group or just don’t be a part of things. And generally, particularly for people new to Pagan groups, this is taken to mean that they should just quit being a Pagan and find something else.

Been there. And to be brutally honest, it is a moment that just sucks pop rocks. Being given an avenue that offers only a pair of choices, neither of which is palatable or workable, can feel rather limiting. So can being given the similar binary choice of either those two choices or get out. That is a moment that can send anyone down the endless spiral of doubt as to whether being a Pagan was a good choice or not. After all, you find this wonderful Path that provides freedom of thought and choice in a manner you never dreamed would be possible. Excitedly, you find a Pagan group to discuss this with, and you find there’s only these choices provided to you. An absolutely terrible ice-bucket-challenge moment.

My senior year of high school, I had some classes that I had to take because I had not done my freshman or sophomore years in the state of Louisiana. Taking these classes meant that I would be on a class schedule similar to that of the first two year students, placing me on their lunch schedule. When I was at lunch, all the other senior-year students would be in their classes, while I ate lunch. I would be the only senior on that lunch bell. Effectively, I found myself ostracized from my fellow classmates, and being a senior, I was keep at an arm’s distance by the under classmen. It was a very disheartening experience for me, because I found myself on the outside looking in for most of the functions for my class. And as a result my experiences and relationships with the people I graduated high school were thin in nature and strength.

It is not quite the same thing as finding a Pagan group, and realizing you have nothing in common with them – and realizing there are no other Pagans to be found to talk and discuss things with. However, that sense of loneliness and disillusionment can be quite similar.

My way out of the issue in high school was to seek friendship with people outside of my school. I went to a private Catholic all-boys high school, so it was a little easier to find a cadre of friends outside of the school. I found mine via the Friday night showings of Rocky Horror Picture Show at the St. Vincent mall in Shreveport. The friends I made there accepted me for the awkward, semi-shy person that I was. They encouraged me to grow in the things that I enjoyed, even when they didn’t completely agree with it. In this instance, I was exploring my musical tastes by delving into hardcore metal – and while they didn’t really care for my musical tastes, they did discuss some of the merits of bands such as King Diamond, Exodus and Slayer in comparison to some of the musical tastes they had. In essence, we were a band of misfit friends. We were all very different from one another, banded together over our desire to be free to explore.

The same can be said for how I approached my Paganism. I went through the rejection aspect too. But I also found ways to connect with Pagans elsewhere. Through message board systems on local BBSs, I found folks in PODSNet, the Magick SIG, and other places where I could talk about what I believed. Through this, I found people who were willing to listen, respond, and assist me in growing myself into who I became.

To put it a different way, I realized that sometimes the path or deer trod through the forest is not always the best way to travel. Sometimes, you have to tighten up your cloak around you, step off the path and enter the forest proper. Granted, there’s a huge degree of caution that one has to take. You have to be careful of your footsteps so that you don’t slip and fall down a steep embankment. You have to be aware of your surroundings, making sure that you don’t run into any animals that may find you to be an intruder that must be repelled. But the experience of blazing your own trail through the forest can be exhilarating, sobering, and intense.

To be upfront and blunt, I do not recommend making your own way to every single individual that is out there. Sometimes, when you get rejected from a group or when you find a group just does not fit who you are – keep looking. Keep knocking on doors. Keep looking for those others.

If you find yourself on a trail on your own, or you find yourself needing to wander off the trail and finding your own way in your own Spirituality – take that chance. Again, be prepared. It can be a lonely path. You will find yourself doubting what you are doing. You may find that you really do need to go back to the trail – and there is not one thing wrong with that. Blazing your own way through the forest is not for everyone. Don’t feel ashamed or upset over it. Cherish the experience, and set it off to the side. You might be able to utilize that experience in something else. And if you do manage to blaze your own trail (and even if you don’t) – be sure to record your experience of it somewhere. In a journal. In an audio recording. In a video recording. Somewhere. So that you can come back to it. Recorded experiences are valuable tools in future learning. And I honestly wish I had done the journaling that I do now back in the 1980s and 1990s.

In the meantime, it is time to pick up my pack, grab my staff, and continue walking my daily Path. Whether you choose to walk a trail or blaze a path of your own – remember this: leading groups and others is hard work. Following others is hard work as well, as you need to watch, listen, and feel to make sure you need to keep following. Getting out of the way, merely means you are standing still. Nothing wrong that. Just get moving eventually. Make a choice, experience it, embrace it, and eventually stop. Evaluate what’s going on. If its still working, stick with it. If you need to adjust do that. If you need to change, do that as well. It is your Spiritual Path. It is your walk in Life. Only you can choose where your footfalls will wind up.

 

Walking the Same Stretch of Pathway

Normally, I don’t write in the evenings. My brain goes into an unwinding mode during this time, and my thoughts typically do not flow as naturally as during the mornings after the first cup of coffee. Yet, here I am, hacking away at the keyboard, drinking water, and listening to the thunder and rain outside my window.

I still get a little flabbergasted when people recognize me. “Hey, you’re TommyElf the podcaster!” is something that I hear from time to time. Not as often as people think it might, because podcasting is not a huge medium whatsoever – but it does happen far more often than I ever thought it might. On a trip to East Coast Gathering a while back, it happened on a crowded flight from Denver to Philadelphia. Its happened a few more times at Pagan Pride Day events as well. And for an individual like me, who shuns the spotlight, it can be a very jarring moment.

The podcast episodes of “From the Edge of the Circle”, and “Upon a Pagan Path” were never meant to thrust me into the spotlight. I have never had a desire to be a well known individual or “Big Name Pagan” as it gets tossed around in some circles (and was applied to me and another person quite recently). I do not write these blog posts to get my name out there either. All of that is done to give back to the wider arching Pagan community or as John Beckett would say, the Big Tent of Paganism.

The reality of who I am, is that I am quite shy with people. Its very difficult for me to approach people and just talk with them. As the first podcast hinted at, I prefer to be at the periphery of things. And as the beak that smacks the back of my head, the paw that smacks my behind, and the soft fingernails scraping against my neck remind me – Crow, Coyote, and Fliodhas prefer it otherwise. There is no desire for me to become infamous and well-known; rather that I communicate with others better. I have mentioned before about how far into the background I melted during Pantheacon. That’s instance of where I have been taken to task over.

See, people wonder what it can be to present yourself as a follower of a God or Goddess. This is only part of it. Fliodhas continues to drag me out of my self-created shell by placing me into situations and locations where I must interact with others. Coyote continually reminds me not to take myself too seriously whenever I feel an astonishing sense of accomplishment or importance. And Crow. Crow is about communicating better. More often. With better frequency and consistency. And believe me, each of these three can be stern taskmasters when there is failure on my part.

So why serve Gods and Goddesses that are stern about you accomplishing the tasks that They want? Well. Because I want to. I know that sounds somewhat smart-ass in nature, but it is true. Crow, Coyote and Fliodhas ask things of me; I can always say “no” to what They want. But I say “yes” because I want to. I have the Free Will to accept or reject, just as anyone else does when they hear the call of their own God/s. I am not a slave to Their needs; I am there to help and assist where and how I can.

And service to a God or Goddess is not for everyone. Nor should it be. Every Pagan has their own unique Path to walk. Every so often, we share footfalls on parts of our Paths, but the overall journey is unique to each individual. For some, the Gods make Their choices and ask. For others, the Gods may not speak directly to. Having a God speak directly with you or not speak directly to you at all – does not make you unique or “not good enough”. It makes you that person – the Pagan that you are. And in the end, that is what matters most. Your own journey. With Gods and Goddesses speaking with you or not – your journey is important. That journey is how you grow. That is how your Spirituality connects with the world around you. It is unique to you, and you alone. Some aspects of it you will share with others, some of it you might not. But the sum of it all is uniquely yours.

Yes, I have areas where I need to grow. I have some things that are being asked of me that I have done poorly. Thankfully, my three Gods are being patient with me to this point in getting better. And all of that, frankly, is between me and Them. Just as your journey on your Path is for you, and you alone. Let’s walk together for a while, and talk together. Perhaps, if you are reading this and you will be at Pantheacon or Many Gods West? If so, I am looking forward to getting the chance to spend time with you. If not, invite me out. We can talk over drinks or coffee or even a meal. Or even a short walk in the park. At least we can make our Paths similar in that moment – walking the same stretch of Pathway.

….and There Were Mountains….

Yes, I am on a much needed vacation. Away from work, out west in the Idaho/Wyoming corner. As I sit here, looking out the window into the darkened sky, I see fat white snowflakes in the headlights of passing cars on the road just outside of this wonderful Bed and Breakfast – The Fur and Feather Inn, just outside of Victor, Idaho. In the background is the Vice Presidential debate on the television. I have my headphones on, and am listening to several Rush albums on shuffle. As I start this post, the song “Tai Shan” is playing. My mind is drifting to that mountain in China that I am working towards climbing in the future. And my mind wanders to what I have seen over the last two days.

The first day was spent in Grand Teton National Park, and the second in Yellowstone. Today, Tuesday, was spent in Jackson, Wyoming doing lunch and some tourist shopping. Tomorrow is a return to what is sure to be a snowy Yellowstone. And the final day will be spent on a return to a snowy Grand Teton.

Yellowstone was interesting, and in many places downright awe inspiring. Old Faithful geyser, on the other hand, was not nearly the attraction that folks make it out to be. It certainly was interesting to watch. But in terms of beauty and awe – well, I was not as impressed as I was with the beauty of Grand Teton. Perhaps a lot of that has to do with the fact I love mountains. Regardless, the majestic beauty of the Grand Tetons, as the clouds rose over the top of them, and began to encase their heights in the misty curtains that would bring the start of snow….for me, that was a completely magickal moment.

At the visitor center for Grand Teton, I found that some of my connection with Crow comes from the Shoshone tribe. Tonight, while doing some quick research on the Shoshone tribe, I found that part of the Eastern Shoshone tribe eventually moved southward into Texas (forced by pressure and warfare from the Plains tribes), and became the Comanche. I happen to live in a part of Texas that was Comanche country at one time. My connection with Crow continues to become clearer and clearer, at least for me.

img_9688There was a point where I pulled the car over for this particular photo, and could just feel the moment. Theses clouds were the advance guard of those that are currently raining and snowing all over the region. Watching the clouds come over the top of these mountains, and then begging the ascent halfway down the slopes that I had just seen was a completely unbelievable moment. In a way, I felt I was watching a horror flick, where the man-eating mists descend upon the town, searching for the hapless victims that happen to be caught outdoors.

The smell of moisture was very real. I could smell the sweet, heavy scent of rain. A scent that I can not describe in any other way. I knew that moisture of some sort was on the way. And depending on the ambient temperature, it was going to be snow or rain.

My ancestry comes from the mountainous region of Germany. I have a severe love for the Rockie mountains. Glacier National Park has figured into many of my dreams. The pull of the “spiritual” pilgrimage of climbing Tai Shan is strong. I know that mountains are a part of who I am. Its only taken three days here for me to feel the change in how I feel. Yes, the statement does apply to me….

The mountains are calling, and I must go.  –John Muir