The Care and Feeding of This Solo Polytheist Pagan

Today’s world is a crazy, zany, and confusing place. The political parts of the world bleed into nearly every part of life. Yes, even into my daily Spiritual life. Honestly, it can suck the happy right out of one’s world – if you let it. So how do I get around it? Well there are a variety of things that fit into that question. Originally, I titled this post as “The Care and Feeding of A Solo Polytheist Pagan” but I realized I cannot really speak for anyone else. So I changed it from “A” to “This” to more reflect that this is what works for me.

In a manner of speaking, this is really about how I manage to keep my sanity in what sometimes feels like a world spinning out of control, headed right towards the Sun for a moment of final destruction. Of course, there’s always the question of whether I do keep any sanity, but that’s a discussion for another time and place. ūüėČ

Dealing with Politics, News, Infighting, and Intolerance

Perhaps the most difficult thing for me these days has been parsing politics and news. Never having been a fan of the current President, his juvenile antics and head-scratching political statements can sometimes send me on a real bender. Couple that with news on climate control events, issues relating to the varied treatment of non-whites throughout the country, the abridgment of rights and lands of First Nations peoples and tribes, and trying to decide who can and cannot use this or that restroom….my state of mind can move from being fairly well balanced to sheer anger to complete despair. And sometimes all of that can take place within the span of five minutes. And no matter how well I have managed to ground and center myself for the day, just a few moments with the news of the day has the potential to smack me off-center for hours on end. And none of that addresses the infighting that takes place within the widely varied perspectives within the Pagan community that occasionally make it to my ears.¬†I am not a particularly empathic individual. I can relate to feelings and emotion of others to an average degree, but that rarely overwhelms me. But intolerance really sets me off quite easily. So what to do?

My primary means of wider communication comes from Facebook. Lately, I have taken to turning off Facebook in the evening hours. Sort of like a Southwest Airlines method – you know the commercial slogan, “Want to Get Away?” But that’s only part of the equation. I have also stopped watching the news in the evenings and even ditched my bad habit of listening to talk radio whenever I was home and coding in my baseball database. Now, I am more likely to put on some Loreena McKennitt or Mary Black, depending on my state of mind at the moment, and just writing. Or if I am not in the state of mind to write, I’ll grab a book and read. Anything to allow my mind and nerves to get away from hearing about this or that from the news.

Daily Rituals

Another way to bring my focus back to the things I need to be focused on – such as my Ovate Gwers studies – is that I have some set rituals I perform throughout the day. Well, these are more “set” in the fact that I try to do them daily, rather than a rote set of instructions. Every morning, regardless of whether I make the sunrise or not, I greet the sun. Mostly, its a matter of stepping outside and spending a few moments grounding and centering, and then saying hello to the sun. Sometimes I manage this at sunrise, sometimes I don’t. And when the weather is bad, I do this from under the backyard patio overhang – or if its way too cold to be outside in my PJ’s, I do so from within my office where my window looks out on my backyard stone circle.

There are other daily rituals that I manage throughout the day: walking around the college campus where I work to clear my mind. For some reason, walking allows me to do just that – clear my mind of thoughts and regain my center and focus. If I were to try this sitting in one place and just grounding and centering, I achieve nothing, and find my mind to be a somewhat scrambled mess.

And the place where I manage these doesn’t matter either. I have walked the aisles of an aircraft in flight to just clear my mind. Granted, the distance wasn’t all that long – but the momentary stretching of the legs can bring me back to focus. When I travelled overseas to the UK these past two winters, I lifted the shade on the window seat to greet the sun on the trip over. Little set patterns like this are critical for me to handle the rest of my day – whether on vacation, at work or at home.

Remembering My Place

There are times where I will find myself overly engrossed with something – typically its the news coverage. When this happens, I will spend some time remembering who I truly am. I’m not a purveyor of the news. The news is nice stuff to stay in touch with the wider world around me, but my personal focus is different. I’m a Priest of Crow. I’m a Druid, in my Ovate grade training, I have a daily job that pays the bills and requires my attention 8+ hours of the day. But being outdoors is where I should be, not indoors looking at a computer screen (though that is what I am doing at this very moment). I write, I read, I am working towards being a Storyteller because this is where I see the future (and the past and the present) of the world: ¬†telling the stories that connect us, our environment, the animals, the Gods – all of us – together. My place is not to worry about what the fake-Donald-Trump does. Certainly, it is best to keep an eye on him, as well as the rest of my representative government officials. My place is elsewhere. Sometimes, I have to remind myself of that.

Don’t Beat Myself Up When Things Fail

This last part is one of the hardest things for me in the care and feeding of myself – not being too hard on myself when I misstep, stumble, or fall. And it happens. I’m fallible. I make mistakes. I misjudge things. I am also my own worst critic. And sometimes I have to remind myself of all of that. Its not a competition between myself and other Pagans as to who does what better, or how often, or more mistake-free. My Path is mine to walk. If I trip on the roots or rocks in the Path, I need to bandage up my wounded pride, check myself for injuries and tend to those. When all that is done, its time to stand up and continue walking along the Path, reminding myself to be a little more careful of steps. When I need to stop and rest along my walk, I need to do so. I don’t need to beat myself up over the fact that I needed to rest so much sooner than this other Pagan or that person over there. They know their own limits; I know mine. We are different people, and therefore different in our limits in walking the Path. This is not a race or competition over who completes what training faster than others or who is more pious (who the fuck measures this?) than another. Rather, I managed to get this far on my Path before someone else – I can reach back and help them along as well. I can point out where the roots and rocks caused me to stumble, hoping that these are the only points of difficulty that they might have. I can point out the marvelous vistas that I saw along the way, hoping that they find that view just as enchanting as I did.

Each one of us walks our Paths in life on our own. I know what works for me. I can provide advice on these points, but in the end – its what works for you that really matters. And to that end, what works for me might not be useful for you. Pay attention to your care and feeding. I haven’t even discussed how reading, podcasts, and just making it to some Pagan gatherings can provide nourishment, inspiration, and energy to my daily walk. Because, honestly, my own care and feeding manual is long, varied, and constantly changing and evolving. I am sure, you will find that yours does to – though maybe not nearly as much as mine does. Happy walking!!

Maintaining Your Daily Rituals in the Face of Travel

Here I am, sitting in a hotel room AGAIN. This year has been full of me being on the road. And there’s more time and adventures to be spent from that spent in the very near future as well. I still have OBOD’s East Coast Gathering coming up, as well as a nearly two-week long trip to Scotland, England, and France at the very end of this year and the beginning of the next. But I am sure I am not the only Pagan who has ever found himself or herself on the road – in a hotel or other location – where handling your daily rituals can be problematic or even intrusive to the other people around them. What’s a Pagan to do???

Before we even travel into this topic, let’s have a short discussion of what this post really is – my own personal daily rituals, modified in a manner that works for me. Some folks may read this and think “who the eff cares? I’ll just do what I normally do, and to the Nine Hells with the people around me!” I get that perspective. Its not who I am, but I can relate to the feeling somewhat. Other people may read this and think “I like that method, but its not something I would/can do in this moment where I am. Can I adapt it to my needs?” Definitely. Anything I relate in this blog is merely my opinion or the manner in which I take care of what I do. By no means am I advocating that mine is the only way. I am merely pointing out exactly what works for me. Now, with all that said….


My typical daily morning ritual is a simple one. I wake up, head downstairs, make a cup of coffee, and watch the sunrise. However, this cannot always happen – particularly when I am on the road. Take this morning for example. I woke up about an hour and a half AFTER the sun rose in the sky. So I went downstairs to the common room, got a cup of coffee, and stepped out into the parking lot to silently greet the sun. I also brought a piece of toast with me, to feed the local birds. It wasn’t my home kitchen, nor was it my backyard next to my beloved stone circle. It was a parking lot, in the middle of a very corporate area of Kansas City, Missouri. Not really conducive to my usual daily perspective. But its enough to honor the Sun, and the toast is merely my manner of honoring the “wildlife” around here. Most of the birds are typically dependent on the scraps that they can find from the fast food locations — a sad fact of what happens when mankind enters an area — so my contribution may be miniscule, but I find it to be a somewhat appropriate touch.

Sometimes, you will find yourself in a position that does not allow for a moment like this. Such as an airplane flight. I will be in this position later in this year – when I wing my way across the Atlantic ocean. At this present moment, I am not sure exactly how I will accomplish my morning ritual, but I am sure I will find some manner of doing so. It may not be the best solution, but I do know that its the effort that’s really going to count.

And that’s really yhe crux of the entire matter. You have to put forth the effort to maintain your daily practices. You may not always succeed in doing what you normally would at home, where your immediate environment is yours. As my previous example notes, an airplane flight is not in your control. The airline holds all the cards there. You will need to make due – find something else that can substitute. I have a friend who does Yoga in her early morning routine. She flies regularly, so I thought she would be the perfect person to ask. Her response was that she merely changed up parts of her Yoga routine so that she could do them in her seat. Most airlines really frown on the idea of you doing your Yoga routine in the aisle, or even in the back area of the plane near the restrooms. So, she adapted a part of her routine to fight the environment she was in – an environment she couldn’t control in a manner that allowed her morning routine to work.

Which brings up the other point. Its not just making the effort to do your normal daily practices. You need to be flexible to what can and cannot be done. Pitching a royal fit simply because the environment is not setup in a manner that accomodates you… Well, I find that to be rather selfish, especially on a plane. There are a couple of hundred people (on a a crowded flight) that are just as uncomfortable in the same environment that is just as unaccomodating to them as well. Somehow, they are managing to change their routines to fit where they are without too much complaint.

The last side to all of this is to be as unobtrusive as you can. Yes, I am saying to respect the space of those around you. Even when they don’t respect your own space. As an example, this morning, as I was crumbling up my three pieces of toast to give to an already large crowd of birds that were gathering, I wound up with a group of children around me as well. All trying to “pet” the little “birdies”. Twice, I had to remind the children that the birds were not pets, but wildlife that needed to be respected as they ate their “breakfast” — but I did so without scolding. These were not my children – and most likely were not taught to respect wildlife by their parents. But I certainly would have preferred to feed my winged friends without any additional assistance. The fact that I did not have that “respect” for my privacy was definitely not a reason for me to lose my cool and respond angrily. I merely kept that inside, and continued doing what I was doing in a manner that was as respectufl as I could. In the next few days, I will go a little further than the hotel parking lot to try and gain a bit more solitude when feeding my feathered brethren.

Travel rarely brings about the best conditions to continue to maintain one’s daily practices. You will find that your environment is not quite what you are used. There will be other people in the way – some of which may not respect your privacy as much as you would prefer. And sometimes your travel may not place you at the right moment for what you normally do. Be flexible. Remember, the Gods are not going to freak out if you cannot be there to say the Druidic Prayer for Peace exactly at the moment you normally do. For me, its the effort that counts the most – rather than the timing.

–Tommy  /|\

Stop. Center. Balance. Remember.

Yep. ¬†Its been a while. Which means there’s been a lot going on. Some of it was good. ¬†Other parts of it..well, let’s just say I would rather not have fallen out of the back of the moving truck and landed on the driveway face-first. So let’s get that out of the way first, shall we?

Most of you know my father passed away suddenly around a month ago. Since then, I have been out to the house three separate times to move furniture and other items out before the estate sale. Well, last weekend was the final time to move larger furniture items. Once I had movers put those items into the truck, I went about the task of tying things down with rope and bungee cord. I dropped a bungee cord on the ground, and decided to step down out of the truck to get it. I moved my foot backwards to stand on the bumper, shifted my entire weight at the same time…and missed the bumper. My entire weight shift pulled me out of the truck, and I landed face-down on the concrete driveway below. A drop of about two feet, but an unexpected one. I tried to brace myself with my right arm, and fractured the ring finger on my right hand. I also skinned up my right forearm very nicely (read: bloody), and hit my head directly on the concrete driveway. Thankfully, it wasn’t much. It definitely could have been much worse. Needless to say, typing and signing my name with a broken finger on my dominate hand is somewhat comical to watch. Anyways…

UponPaganPathI saw a news report that was pushed to Facebook by Troy Young…I’m too lazy to get it at the moment….but it alluded to the idea that walking in the woods is a great way to essentially refresh one’s soul. Or something like that. Hold on a second, let me find it and paste it in here. (Yes I talk while I type) Its actually a blog post by Tess Whitehurst over at Witches and Pagans and is called “How Simply Taking a Walk Can Activate Your Intuition and Magical Power“. The post is an interesting read – but it reminds me how far away I have gotten from something that is a major part of who I am – my daily walk.

Where I work, I drive nearly an hour one way to get there.I spend a little more than eight hours there. So added with the commute, that’s ten hours out of my day. That makes walking through my neighborhood a little dicey. When I was an adjunct and could walk at whatever time in the late morning or early afternoon that I desired, I could choose times that were a little less trafficked by vehicles. Like any neighborhood, there are a multitude of streets that I have to cross, and all are heavily populated with vehicle traffic in early morning and early evening hours. I sincerely wish that there was a walking trail on my side of the interstate (our “city” is split by the interstate). And then my weekends are sometimes very heavily populated with things that have to get done – which takes away more of the time I want to go walking with. Since I can’t seem to talk the Gods into adding a few more hours into the day – I have to literally ask myself: “What the Nine Hells is a busy Pagan to do?”

Stop. Center. Balance. Remember.

These four phrases are my gentle reminders that sometimes the Path doesn’t look the way that I would always want it to. Instead of warm, green grass or the gritty feel of sand and dirt punctuated with an occasional rock – I may have ceramic tile or industrial-brown carpet underneath my loafer-encased feet. Instead of a clear blue sky peering between the brown and green dome of tree branches above, I may have fluorescent light fixtures plastered against an anti-septic egg-shell white ceiling. I may not be able to do the awesome tree meditation in the video below…but I can easily stop, step to the side, close my eyes, and find my Inner Grove.

There’s plenty of stuff in the news, as well, that gives me a very similar “unbalanced” feeling. Police brutality. Nutball politicians on the Left and Right side of the political spectrum. Crazy legislative measures that seem to be aimed at fracturing the Constitution of the United States through thousands of small paper cuts. All of that erodes the small barriers I have put up for sanity’s sake. At some point, I can literally hit my knees, look up at the sky, and plead with the Gods to pull me into the land of the Fay, far beyond the reach of these humans that seem bent on gathering power to themselves to subjugate and diminish those that they disagree with. And when I finally feel like I am totally out of control,¬†these four words get whispered into my hearing.

Stop. Center. Balance. Remember.

There’s another thought that comes to mind as well: ¬†pick your battles. I can be outraged over police brutality in places like Missouri and Maryland. But I am in neither place, and its not likely going to do any good or be helpful for me to find the nearest Denton County Sheriff and get agitated with them over it. I can be outraged by whatever thing a politician may do, say or advocate. The real measure of my “voice” doesn’t come from some idiotic meme on Facebook, but rather by¬†going to my local polling location – and voting. For instance, my city is about to elect a new mayor. I have read up on the candidates, and do not like any of them. But rather than staying away from the polling location, I will show up and vote – leaving the mayor election blank. There are, after all, other measures on the ballot too. The matter is not just getting out and doing, its also a matter of understand where your own limitations are. Finding the Center and the Balance.

So what am I about to do for my walks? Well, I can’t walk every day like I have done in the past. I will have to pick my where and when – and work more within my meditations for those times when I cannot. I might not be able to get out into the woods or even the neighborhood on as regular a basis as I have done, but that doesn’t mean that my connections to my environment are gone. And its those connections that I need to focus on and work with now.

One final thought on this. This works for me. That does not mean it will be appropriate for you to utilize. You may need to tweak parts of what I am talking about to work for you. You may find that none of it works for you whatsoever. You may find its spot-on for you. Whatever the case may be – find what works for you in those instances where you cannot get out and take your walks in the outdoors. So what if it doesn’t match what I do. What I do works for me. What works for you, works for you. No judgment whatsoever.

Morning Ritual — My Perspective on a Daily Practice

My Stone Circle (28Feb2015)
My Stone Circle (28Feb2015)

For the last two days (three now that I am writing more to this on Sunday morning), I have watched the snow coming day, then turn to sleet, and hopefully come Sunday melt away a little more. As someone that enjoys being outside, its been a little tough to head outside during this weather – though I have ventured out twice to distribute old bread and some bird seed. But it has afforded me a wonderful time to spend in meditation, journal writing, and catching up on classwork. All of which have reminded me how much my daily routine has changed in the last half year’s time.

Meditation or my Inner Path workings as I have started to refer to this process, is a very important part of my Spiritual practice. As Joanna Van Der Hoeven mentioned to me in a recent chat (I am paraphrasing here), prayer is talking to the Gods, meditation is the process of listening. And this makes perfect sense to me. Though I am somewhat recalcitrant to refer to my daily moments of greeting the rising sun and seeing off the setting sun as “prayer” — those moments can certainly fall into that category.

Sunrise is my favorite part of the day. Its quiet during this time of the day. In any rural setting I have been in – this is the most likely time I have found to encounter wildlife. Their quiet, seemingly serene manner of walking through an environment that is continually interrupted by the noisy creature known as man, is a breathtaking moment of clarity for me. Every morning, I stand by my little stone circle with my Kokopelli and Iron Crow Squadron members within it, and I greet the rising sun – even when its behind the clouds. In the case of bad weather, I stand just inside the house in the kitchen, and go through my moments of preparing for the peeking of my old friend coming over the horizon.

One of the first motions I use is a tree meditation that was taught to me long ago by my first High Priestess in my initial Wicca days. I stand with my feet shoulder-length apart, and breathe deeply, trying to clear my mind of stray thoughts that are unimportant. While I do this, I also feel my feet begin to shift downwards into the earth, taking roots like a tree. Embracing the feel of the earth’s soil between my feet, the feel of the aquifer deep beneath me. The water that moves through the soil and down towards the nearby lake, the touch of water. Once I feel firmly rooted, where no strong wind will likely blow me over, I return back above the ground, feeling the air around me. Sometimes warm, sometimes cold – sometimes refreshing, sometimes raking across my skin like the scratch of an angry animal – sometimes not moving at all, the air around me embraces me with its wild emotions – like a long-lost lover. Regardless of whether there are clouds in the sky or not, I can feel the warmth of the sun as it rises above the horizon, peeking out into the world around me. Illuminating those that sought the serenity and anonymity that the darkness of twilight provides. And during all of this, I slowly empty my thoughts – one at a time – until I am focused only on my breathing – slow and rhythmic. And I listen. I open my mind to all the senses around me and just listen. Sometimes, I can hear the wind pulsing through the leaves in the tree above me. Sometimes the sound of a nearby car driving past – radio blaring loudly. And sometimes, it is just quiet. Every once in a while, I’ll hear Crow’s quiet voice – reminding me of some point or perspective i had forgotten. Other times, its the quiet roar of silence. Until I feel the need to come back, pulling up my deep-seated roots until I am a whole human being again. And ready to move along with my daily life — with that moment of solitude, the memory of those sounds in-between the worlds still within my mind. Moving forward with purpose.

Not every morning is like this. Sometimes I am rushed to get out the door and on to my job. Other times, I have a visitor over and their company is more appropriate to be in conjunction with. But many of my mornings have elements of what I have written here. And this is only one of several things that I do in my daily practice. There are moments where I ground and center, just to mutter a prayer of hope for the world around me. There is my evening lamentation as my skyward friend disappears beyond the horizon to the West – on a journey to the other side of this world – beyond my ability to experience and perceive. There are my nightly moments of meditative thought, asking the Gods to help others see the world around them as something that they interact and live jointly with – not as a resource to dominate, control, and consume.

There’s many ways to go about doing things such as these. How you approach or even don’t approach such thing – well, that is ultimately up to you. I can only relay how these particular practices help me get through each day, provide structure to my daily walk, and enrich my understanding of the world around me. After all, my walk is my own — yours will be different. In some ways it will be similar or even the same, and differ in so many others. Its the handling and processing of these experiences that make us each unique…