Thinking About: There’s One Thing in Which We Are the Same – We’re Different.

I don’t do divination or prophecy and rarely do I touch on magick. I live my life a single day at a time. I don’t want to know too much about things that are too far down the road. And magick? Well, that’s usually left as a “nuclear option” when hard work, sweat, and brains don’t suffice – which those methods are typically more than enough. I realize that much of that is antithetical to the approach that most Pagans take. For some, magick is the very first arrow they pull from their quiver. Bully for them. I’m not about to tell anyone how to manage their lives, even when it comes to magick or some other point. I’m more focused on trying to make the right choices in my own life. After all of that, I still hear that I should be worrying about this or that in the realm of politics – especially here in the United States. ::big sigh::

Usually, when I start hearing political talk, my tendency is to tune out. I learned a long time ago that trying to “discuss” politics with anyone is a losing proposition, even with those who tend to agree with your own point of view. Plus, I’m not “woke” enough to sit and argue endlessly over how politics is going to save the world. My views are far more middle ground than most folks out there. I don’t see a ton of good points in the left or the right. Thus, I tend to push all the bickering and garbage off to the side and focus on what I need to be focused on. Yeah, I hear a lot about how my focus is too self-focused, but that’s really where my focus needs to be. Before I can help a single soul, I must help myself. I can’t help you stand on your own if I am on my hands and knees. Too often, I get judged by others who compare where I am at with where they are at. Since they have got their shit together, the same holds true for me.

I hear a lot about how my Druidry MUST include politics. Well, no it doesn’t HAVE TO. I choose to push that out of my Druidry…but I also don’t demand that others do the same in their Druidry. That’s because one person’s Druidry is their own individual perspective. What makes Druidry for them comes from what they believe to be important in their beliefs. No one, not me, not anyone, has the right to tell others how they should be practicing their own beliefs. If another person looked at my approach to my Druidry and felt that it resonated with them enough to use it…they made that choice, not me. They are the only ones that have that choice.

I rail on this point constantly. That’s because I feel it is an individual freedom. Everyone makes the choices of what they will do, what they will accept as fact, and why they make that choice. None of that is a choice I get to make for someone else. They get to make that choice for themselves within their own individual Spirituality – their own connection to the Divine. I’m not their intercessor with the Gods. Nor would I care to be any such thing at any given time. I refuse to step between someone else and their connection to the Divine.

I’m not here to bend a single soul’s perception to my own perception. I’m not here to be the expert on Paganism, Druidry, or Paganism. I am the thirty-five-year expert on my own individual perceptions to all of that. But only on my own individual perception. I am completely sure of that perspective. But I won’t and cannot be the expert on yours. I categorically refuse.

I know that this stance is confusing for many new Pagans that find posts like this for me. I’ve been a Pagan for thirty-five years, surely I’m an expert over those thirty-five years? Hardly. I know Paganism from my viewpoint. I know Paganism according to my own biases. I can’t know Paganism from your viewpoint. I’m not you. I can explain why and how I see Paganism from my vantage point from around our collective fire, but in the end – its still just my vantage point.

I’m no guru. I’m not sitting on the mountaintop, waiting for you to climb to its heights, and posit a query for me to muse upon. If anything, I’m wandering the mountainside myself…seeking answers as well. Working through my own experiences. Perhaps, we can sit down for a while, talk, and share experiences? We’ll learn a little from one another that way. After all, we will see different things…we’ll try different methods and approaches. Because we’re not the same…and out of all te points I can make – that one means the most to me.

–T /|\

Photo by Yogendra Singh on Pexels.com

Thinking About: The Gods, You, and Your Choices

Its an innocent question, especially if you’re new to Paganism. “How do you worship the Gods?” But it can also be twisted slightly into “How SHOULD you worship the Gods?” I got this question an Email over the weekend..the version without the SHOULD in it. Answering it seems quite simple and easy. But like any other question in the arena of personal Spirituality, its not as simple as it sounds.

Worship of the Gods comes in whatever form you desire. That’s the easy way to view things. You do whatever feels “natural” and “right” in providing worship to Them. If its “wrong” or not “right” you’ll hear about it. From the Gods, from those who worship those Gods, from your hardcore Christian friends…it seems like everyone feels they have the “right” to weigh in on what you do in your veneration of the Gods. Knowing that can happen, many folks shy away from being public about their perspective on stuff like this. Its understandable. Who in the Nine Hells wants a beat-down from every direction? It happens, just not as often as you might think. But it does happen. Except here in this blog post. I’m not about to tell you what you do or do not need to do to worship the Gods. I’ll only say that its not as easy as you think it is.

That’s right. You don’t pick up the Deities & DemiGods Handbook (Dungeons and Dragons), drool over that smoking hot sketch of Freya and offer your horn-dog self up to be Her sex slave. Well, it could happen that way. But I’d offer that She is likely to bitch-slap you into several yester-years when She eventually tires of your shit. Just my opinion there. Worshipping the Gods can truly be as easy as lighting a few candles, lighting some incense, and saying a few words of adoration. However, if you want to tie yourself with a God, its not as easy. Making a pact with a God is like making a pact with the fairies. Its not an easy deal, and likely you’re not covering all your bases. However, if you can work it to a favorable perspective for you, such a pact can be quite fruitful.

I’m tied in with Coyote, Crow and Abnoba. When I started working with Coyote, and Crow – I was made into a fool with the things that were suggested for me to do and try. Eventually, I got frustrated and meditated my frustration and anger towards Them. Why would They want an idiot like me to work with Them? If They wanted to work with me, why make me look like a fool? Was I just to be some kind of play-thing? Their response was simple and took me aback just a bit. They wanted to work with someone who had a spine, someone that could evaluate what was being asked to do something and could say “no.” They wanted someone who wouldn’t be a “yes” person. That took a while for me to acclimate to. Over the years, I’ve said “yes” far more than I’ve said “no.” I’ve also learned to justify my answers as well. But that’s been through years of work – lots of trial and error.

I’ve had plenty of claims of appropriation leveled against me for working with First Nations’ Gods. Frankly, the Gods choose who They choose. As a white guy, I always found it troubling that I had these two Gods working with me. When I thought of trying to add First Nations’ methodologies to my Spiritual practice, I was reminded that I was not of “the people” (Their term for the First Nations’ people). My workings and pact with Them did not provide a pass into that culture. My workings with Them was to be “different.” And it has been.

The Gods do claim whom They wish to. Sometimes, you get the chance to say no. Honestly, I would say “no” if The Morrigan expressed a wish to work with me. I’m just not built in a manner to work in the areas that She tends to be in. Plus, my uber-Libra nature would cause me to question motives, reasons, and such things in a way that might not appropriate to deal with Her. I’d rather keep my life a little less chaotic, thank you very much.

So how should you worship the Gods? Well, that’s more trial and error for the most part. At least in my opinion. How you approach the Gods will be far different than my own. I don’t lie prostrate before the Gods. I stand. In silence. With respect. The Gods are not my equals. They are far greater than I am. But I don’t need to make myself inferior to Them because of that. I exist here, materially. They don’t. Though there are myths and legends of yesteryear that say otherwise. My pacts with Coyote, Crow, and Abnoba (to a lesser degree) are for me to act on Their behalf on tasks that They require of me. Some are easy. Most are not. Far fewer are extremely difficult. While I provide respect and acknowledge Their presence as being special to me – I’m not in the position to place Them front and center in my rituals and rites. Remember, I am not of “the people.” I am not to try and turn myself into something I am definitely not.

There will be those that say that you SHOULD worship THIS God or Goddess in THIS manner. Honestly, I would defer to their perspective on that. Its their way to approach their respective God or Goddess. I could not ascertain the “rightness” or “wrongness” of their preferred methodology. Well, unless they were sacrificing people’s lives or killing/mutilating animals. I don’t believe that the life-force of anything needs to be sacrificed to appease some Being from another realm. Just my two quid into the pot on that.

So, how should someone worship the Gods? Well, whatever way you believe you should. I would posit that most worship is done in the vein of love and respect. Just how you show and convey that, is really up to you, in my opinion. If the Gods show you a different way, as Coyote and Crow have done for me, follow that. But in the end, you’re in control of you. You know what works and are aware when something doesn’t work for you. That holds true in worship of the Gods as well. If you do a ritual a certain way because it was what was taught to you…that’s awesome! If you like to go “off script” and you find that its what resonates with your daily Spirituality and feels like a stronger connection with the Gods and your environment around you….super awesome! Keep doing that!! Your choices are yours to make…

In closing, I’ll share a something I wrote on Facebook about a dozen years ago.

Individual choices are merely echoes within life….the ripples from each provides a cascade we can only fathom in our deepest imaginations.

me

Do you wish to worship the Gods within your daily practice? That choice is ultimately yours. As is the choice of how you go about doing so. Your spirituality, your choices.

–Tommy /|\

THAT Feeling. THAT Energy. Its Worth the Search.

“What is a successful Pagan experience?” Aoife, a reader of the blog, asked me this question in an Email exchange. Well, in my not so humble opinion, there’s not an easy answer. That’s because what makes a successful experience – those moments that just click so naturally you wonder why you never noticed before – is as different for each person as each person is a unique individual when compared to others. Because of that, its easier to explain what I consider those moments to be in my own past. Hopefully, it sheds enough light that others can relate.

One of my very first moments goes all the way back into my younger childhood. Right around the age of ten. My family was living in military base housing in Wiesbaden, Germany (West Germany at that time). As a family, we would go out every weekend (usually a Sunday) and participate in Volksmarches throughout the German countryside. Sometimes, we would drive two or three hours to participate in a particular Volksmarch event. Others were short drives from Wiesbaden. Sometimes we walked our ten-kilometer marches with my mother’s family (my mother was German, and I still have many relatives in Germany to this day). Other times, we walked with military families that we knew. Often, we made friends with other families walking in the events. During the marches, there were stations where you got a Volksmarching card stamped. At the end of the ten kilometers, you would turn in your card and receive a commemorative medallion which detailed the individual or event that was the celebratory aspect of the entire walk. I still have all those medallions….somewhere. I’ve always wanted to put those into shadow boxes to be displayed, but that’s another story for another time. Anyways, I remember one walk in particular. The ten-kilometer path was marked through part of the Black Forest. I forget which medallion commemorates this walk, But I will never forget the walk. The forested area of the walk went through a stretch in a hilly area. Off to either side was super thick forest. The pine trees were very close together. You couldn’t walk between the trunks without the branches clawing at your clothing. Most of the thinner trunks belonged to pine trees that were choked off from the sunlight of the taller trees. In later life, I would equate this experience to part of the Rush song “The Trees”:

There is unrest in the forest
Trouble with the trees
For the maples want more sunlight
And the oaks ignore their pleas

The trouble with the maples
(And they’re quite convinced they’re right)
They say the oaks are just too lofty
And they grab up all the light

But the oaks can’t help their feelings
If they like the way they’re made
And they wonder why the maples
Can’t be happy in their shade

“The Trees” by Rush

I even had that thought when I was walking through that forest. Why did the trees that were taller stay green, when the smaller trees had no pine needles at all? That question helped me with a Boy Scout badge, where I researched forestation concepts. But there was so much more that happened than just an inquisitive child seeing so many questions to be asked and answered.

Even with a large horde of people walking on the forest path – all talking, laughing, and calling to their kids to not get too far ahead (I was one of those kids, by the way) – the forest was silent. All you could hear was the wind pushing the taller trees back and forth, with the occasional creak of those trees straining against that unseen pressure. On part of the path, a small group of wild boars could be seen much further in the trees. People stopped to stare, point, and exclaim their astonishment of seeing animals that usually stayed away from humans. Eventually, they clamored enough to force the group to go further into the woods, where the thick gathering of trees quickly obscured them. My mind immediately sprang to the point of realizing that we were essentially walking through the living room of these boar. How would I feel if these boars walked through the small base housing unit we lived in, strolling between the couch and the tv? It was an odd moment of empathy for me. One I couldn’t shake, even further into my life. Then there was the voice in the back of my head.

You’re seeing the world differently now. There’s no going back. Only forward.

To this day, I have no idea what that voice may have been. A God or Goddess? A Spirit of Place? A Spirit of Ancestor? My own inner monologue? Something else entirely? I have no idea. I have my own theory, but its completely unproveable. I believe that a Spirit of Place was speaking to me, welcoming (somewhat) into a different perspective. But this is my older self trying to rationalize what my ten-year old self had encountered. I’ve never been able to figure it out. But that moment truly is where I started to see the world from perspectives other than my own. I’m not sure anyone else would call this a “successful” Pagan moment in my life, but I consider it as such. It’s a moment where what happened clicked into place.

I have talked about this type of moment with others, essentially canvassing them for their own moments that had this same feeling – that same energy. Some have noted similar moments in their first rituals, both solo and group. Where everything that happened in that moment just clicked into place. That they had found something that felt like they had come home – that there was this moment of peace, and “rightness” that came over them. Their lives had changed forever at that moment. There was no going back. Others have found that moment after reading a book on Paganism, where the author’s words were just so perfect. I’ve had that moment as well, while reading Kristoffer Hughes’ book “Natural Druidry.” I’ve been around Kristoffer enough that I can literally hear him reading this book to me as I went through it. Everything in it is right on target with what I call “my Druidry.” His writings have affirmed what Druidry is in my own life, how the concepts are becoming a deeper, richer part of my own self-identity. How I know this path of Druidry is where my footfalls truly belong. Yes…THAT feeling, THAT energy.

Successful moments in Paganism? In Druidry? Yes, all the time. Just as there are moments where failure happens. And from those failures, we learn, we grow. I dabbled in Wicca for a few years. Enough that I knew it wasn’t the path for me. It was a failure for me. Not so much in the sense that I feel Wicca is a waste of time, and a horrible system. More in the sense that this was not where my footfalls and energy belonged. Just because it doesn’t work for me doesn’t mean that I think it’s a useless and wasteful path for others. Nine Hells, it wasn’t useless or wasteful for me. It just wasn’t the path for me. It was an experience I learned from. Please don’t let me dissuade you from choosing any path you want. Its your choice. Its your footfalls. Its your energy. TRY things and see if it works for you. And when you find that feeling, where things are so right, so “home,” so “you” – you won’t be able to contain the joy inside you.

–Tommy /|\

Thinking About: 1983 and That Theology Class

This morning, my automated music application (MusicBee) started me off with some Ozzy Osbourne. Not an unusual musical choice for me. Ozzy was one of my very first steps out into the rock environment with his first solo album (Blizzard of Ozz). When I first heard the song “Crazy Train” I was completely hooked (forgive the pun here – my last name can be utilized as a variant to anything “hook” related). The soaring guitar riffs of Randy Rhoads were like nothing I had heard before. Most of my early childhood was spent listening to Tom T. Hall, Gilbert O’Sullivan, and the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s country music artists that were my father’s musical choices. MusicBee started me off with a cut from Ozzy’s 1983 solo album, “Bark at the Moon – the first studio album after the untimely death of Randy Rhoads.

1983 is an interesting year in my life. This was my junior year in high school. Many changes were arriving in my lap, all at the same time. I had my first steady girlfriend. I had my very first job. I was exposed to the concept of critical thinking in my Theology class. See, my parents didn’t believe that the public school system was a good choice for education. They wanted me to be “highly educated” – particularly in what they considered to be “classical education.” They felt that the Catholic school education model was far superior, and enrolled both myself and my sister in private Catholic schools, particularly for our high school education. I understood their reasoning, but only later in my life. They merely wanted to give their children an advantage that neither of them had. It’s a completely understandable perspective. What it did; however, was foment a growing revolutionary aspect in my mind. I was never truly enamored with the Catholic faith. It was pretty, and at some points it was interesting – but I’ve never been one to follow the crowd. That’s still true to this day. My preference has always been to find my own way.

Theology is a class that was taught at every year in the school I attended. It really wasn’t a class on all the beliefs that were out there. Essentially, it was a class meant to indoctrinate students into the Catholic faith. Each year built upon the previous year’s teachings – adding new material that was more complex in understanding. The function of the Priesthood, Nunneries, the Catechism, the reasoning, and aspects of the Rosary, the need and concepts behind confession, etc. etc. Me, not being a Catholic, I found this constant drilling unnecessary and unwelcome. However, I paid attention to the best of my ability. I went to the monthly forced services. I genuflected, stood, kneeled at the proper points of the Mass, but I never went to received communion. I just felt that this part of the Mass was meant for those that believed in the faith, not for a kid of protestant parents who had no desire to be in the Catholic faith. Then came my junior year Theology class, and suddenly my perspective of these “forced” classes changed – for a single semester.

It was the third semester. Spring is what they called it. In the beginning of January. We had just come back from the Christmas holidays. We were in a class of around twenty-five, and our scheduled time was right after lunch. We were full of food, and in a heated classroom. Sleepiness was a key factor. Our instructor brought out an old record player and set it on a four-legged stool at the front of the class. Great. We’re about to be bombarded with the Catholic version of gospel music. He took the record out of the sleeve, placed it on the turntable and put the needle on the disc. Jesus Christ Superstar’s opening overture started. With freakin’ hard rock guitars!! What was this witchery?? Catholic rock??

After the overture played, he took the needle off the record and stared at all of us – one by one. He had this huge smile on his face. “That’s what we are going to learn in this quarter,” he announced. Learn what? How to sing it? How to play it on instruments? We’re going to become musicians in a Theology class? “No, we’re going to learn critical thinking. Using this rock opera, the backdrop of Christ’s crucifixion, and your ability to think and change perspectives.”

Slowly, we went through the entire rock opera. Song by song. The lyric sheet was passed around to the class, so that we could read what was being sung. So that we could use those lyrics to five into deeper conversations about things I never thought I would hear in a Theology class. He spurred us on with statements and points questioning the divinity of Christ. We would argue that those statements weren’t true. He would challenge us back to prove our reasoning that his statements weren’t true. “You’re just stating what you’ve been taught. Regurgitating information rather than believing what you’re saying,” he cajoled us in one class period. “Think about what you believe. Make sure you believe what you’re saying. If you don’t, dig even deeper and find out why.” Soon, members of the class were bringing in other materials to prove their points. Books, audio recordings, magazine articles – nothing was out-of-bounds. At the end of the quarter, we took a “final” exam on the quarter on the material. There were questions on who played what role, what was the significance of a particular moment in the rock opera, and how did it differ from what we’ve been taught from the Bible. The very last question asked if we believed what we had been taught, and how did that play a part in our daily lives? The following year, our senior year, we were asked to go to local hospitals, nursing homes, and elementary schools to help out within our local community – Shreveport, Louisiana. We were excused from classes to be able to do this. It wasn’t until years later that I realized that this question was the crux of that performative duty. Anyways…

I answered the last question in a manner in which I received a “wrong answer” notation, along with a request to see the instructor after school was let out for the day. I was not happy with this, since it meant that I couldn’t spend another forty-five minutes playing on the new Apple ][ computers that had been installed in our computer studies classroom. But I knew that not following the request would result in a phone call to my father that I had not followed an instructor’s request, which quickly lead to a punishment that I didn’t want. I came to my instructor’s classroom, and he asked me to sit in the front row. As I sat down, he quietly closed the door and sat in the desk next to mine. “You’re answer on the last question of the exam,” he stated quietly. “Why?” I explained my reasoning. I didn’t want to answer a question that had me claiming a belief that I did not have. I didn’t believe in the divinity of Jesus ben Joseph. I didn’t even believe in the correctness of the Catholic faith. “You attend the monthly service. You could always stay back in the library with the other non-Catholic students instead.” I explained how I found the Mass to be a beautiful ceremony that depicted much of the symbology of what I had been taught in the Theology classes. I enjoyed the beauty of the ritual, even if I didn’t agree with what was being depicted. “What do you believe?” This was the toughest question to answer. I wasn’t sure. I knew that it had something to do with the outside. The beauty of the woods. The serenity of the wind blowing through the leaves of the trees. The feeling of the sun’s warmth on my face. The sting of cold rain driven into my face by a winter’s storm. To me, being outside was that serene feeling that I had heard several of my classmates express about being in Mass. I didn’t feel that in Mass. I felt that every time I was outside. When I finished, he stood up and held his hand out to me. I took it and he provided a very warm, friendly handshake. “I hope you find that somewhere Tommy.” I was quietly ushered out of the classroom, and he thanked me for coming to talk with him.

It took another three years before I found what I was looking for. Even when I found it, I continued to question its “rightness” and “appropriateness” in my life. I utilized some of the critical thinking skills I had attained within that class. Did I believe what was being said? Did it fit within my heart? Did it resonate in my mind as being a complete fit to what I knew about the world? Could I find something that eroded the foundation of what I believed? Most importantly, did any of this make the world come alive for me? The answers are self-evident. I’m now on my (counting on my fingers – and breaking out the calculator when I fail at it) thirty-sixth year on my Pagan Path. I’ve been on my Path longer than I had been alive at that moment in my Junior year of High School (I was seventeen). I’ve seen a lot in all of that time. Good groups, bad groups. Good leaders, bad leaders. Learning how to walk my Path alone. Encountering the Gods (and being scared shitless when I figured out what I had stumbled upon). I’ve been ridiculed over my beliefs. I’ve even been physically beaten because I’m not a Christian. I’ve been ostracized by others, simply because I didn’t believe as they did. Through all of that, I’ve remained a Pagan because it is what I believe. It is my approach to the world around me. It permeates who and what I am. But I would never force my belief and understanding on to anyone else. Because in that 1983 Theology class, I learned that not everyone believes the same way. That the best approach is to be happy for someone that has found a system of belief that provides them with an understanding of the world around them. Because it is best to show kindness to others, even when they don’t show you kindness.

As I said that year was formative to who I am today. I learned about myself – through music, through books, through others – and through that class. I’m not the best person in the world. Nine Hells, I’m not even the best person that I can be. But I try my best. Some days, that’s not enough. Other days, its more than I could ever fathom. In the end, it all evens out. All I can do is hope that I touch the lives of others in as positive a light that I can manage for the moment. ::smile::

–Tommy /|\

For the Love of Justice, Truth, and a Good Night’s Sleep

Every so often, I get asked about why I don’t post more about American politics or even World politics for that matter. “You’re a Druid,” is a response I hear often to my quiet shrug. “Don’t you have a mantra that suggests a love for Justice? Don’t you want to see ‘Justice’ done against Trump and his followers?” Or there’s an opposite aspect to that as well: “Don’t you believe in Justice? Don’t you want to see the witch-hunt against President Trump come to an end?” See, I have friends from both ends of the political spectrum, so I generally hear both sides of that point. My own perspective is far removed from both sides.

Most people don’t really grok where I come from with politics. I’m an unaffiliated voter in the state of Texas. This doesn’t really mean much here in Texas. Primaries are open in the state of Texas, meaning anyone can vote in any primary. Kind of dumb, huh? But even if the primaries were closed – in other words, Democrats voted only in Democratic primaries, etc. etc. – I would remain an unaffiliated voter. Its my quiet way of flying the finger at the stranglehold that the two-party system has here in America. Not that anyone was ever really looking for my middle-finger throughout all of it. 😉 Not much of a protest, but it is what I do. I was never about screaming my perspective from the ramparts in the first place.

So, when folks start flying the point about Druids being for “justice” – I’m always reminded that terminology can be equated to a double-edged sword. What some refer to something as “justice” does not always mean that someone else will see it the same way. When we start flinging the word “justice” around, we’re seeking restitution for action – trying to balance out an inequality (so Libra of me…LOL). When I get a call for justice bandied about or at me, the first thing I start looking for is an inequality that needs to be balanced. Well, here’s the hard part – trying to see both sides of the equation. Sometimes, its easy. Stuff can be two-toned in that respect. Other times, well…sometimes its hard to even comprehend the other side of an argument. Honestly, I can’t and don’t’ see or understand a lot of what the Trump supporters bandy about. For instance, all this kerfuffle about the election being “rigged.” I can’t really see things from their respective. I believe the election was fair, honest, and accurate. I also believe the same thing about the election when President Trump was elected. There was a lot of outrage over supposed Russian interference in the election. See, you can go back and back and back in history and find the losers of the various elections claiming widespread voter fraud. For me, “justice” demands that the alleged inequities be thoroughly investigated and reported. Every single time, voter fraud and irregularities were discovered but at such low levels that it would not sway the election in any significant manner. And in the name of love for “justice” – we, here in the United States, investigate the shit out of that stuff. So, when I get slammed with the point of the Druidic phrasing of the “love of justice” over the election…I point out instances such as this. Not that any of that sways the minds of those slapping me in the face with these charges like they are swinging a sea trout in a fish market.

Then there are those that slam me for not leading the charge to “get Trump”. Here, I point to the ongoing investigations, and note that these processes take time. “Too much time,” is the crackback. Agreed. It always feels like its too much time, particularly when you are already at some conclusion. Guilty, not guilty…everyone’s ready to free someone they believe in or jail the one they would prefer to vigilante justice upon for whatever wrongs have painted on those folks. Part of my “love for justice” is my larger “love of the truth.” That means letting investigations proceed at its own speed. The people appointed to the investigation are charged with seeking the truth, and I hold them to that charge. I would hope much of the citizenry does too. Even if that truth is opposed to their own perceived perspective of guilt or innocence. After all, that’s why we are holding an investigation – to make sure that the truth is known, and to make sure that the guilty are truly guilty. “Slam Trump in a jail cell, and then drop the prison on top of him!” Sure. I agree. If he’s guilty of whatever is being charged against him. I’d rather the investigation ran its course, the evidence be found and corroborated then to rush everything through and push the punishment onto him without the process being fulfilled to its end. Why? Well, its simple. I would want the same due process applied to me, were I to be charged with a crime. I would want the investigation to be thorough and complete, in the name of Justice and the Truth. If I, a simple citizen desire this for myself, in the name of equality – I want it for everyone else too.

I’m a Libra. I want the scales of Justice to be balanced. Honestly, I am a Libra. October 1st. Somewhere near the middle of the entire sign’s calendar dates. Balance, equality, justice, and truth are important to me. I’m as typical a Libra as you will find. Is it any wonder that I am an unaffiliated voter/ Or that I prefer to see both sides of an issue before I decide which one I would favor in my own opinion? Trust me, I’ve heard it all in association with myself. Waffler, incapable of making up my mind, fence-rider, middle-of-the-road, indecisive, non-confrontational… And all are true. Except when I do finally make up my mind. When I choose my side. I’m a warrior for that point. Because I know where things fall within my own perspective on the points of Truth, and Justice. And I know what’s “right” in that issue.

Grant, O Gods, Thy protection;
And in protection, strength;
And in strength, understanding;
And in understanding, knowledge;
And in knowledge, the knowledge of justice;
And in the knowledge of justice, the love of it;
And in that love, the love of all existences;
And in the love of all existences, the love of the Gods.

I hate to say that my political perspective is derived from my understanding of the above prayer – what is referred to as the Druid’s Prayer. But it does. I choose to avoid affiliation from Democrats, Republicans, or any other political party – because I don’t completely believe what these parties quietly convey: party above all else. Their politics is not about doing what is best for the citizenry, but rather what is best for the party’s continued control of the three branches of government here in the United States. Others will argue that I’m wrong. That this party or that party have the best interests of the citizenry at the heart of their desire for control and power. That’s about the point where I do what now I am doing in this blog post: I shut my mouth and move on. Because my life is taken up with many more positive things than stuff like politics. And I really need to focus on those things to have another happy day ahead. And I do so like having happy days. Politics has its place and time…but right now, its time to get the house ready for another night of rest and sleep…politics has no place there. I have a love for justice and truth, but I have an even greater love for a good night’s sleep.

–Tommy /|\

Photo by Sora Shimazaki on Pexels.com

Revisiting – Static or Dynamic Mythology

Back in February of 2016, I wrote a blog post discussing the idea that the Gods are alive and continually growing. Badly titled as “Static or Dynamic Mythology”, its not a common post to show up in yearly blog hits. However, a reader of the blog wrote me privately asking me to do go back and take another look through the post and update my feelings on it. From time to time, I get requests like this – a request to go back and look at what I wrote. So, I title these as “Revisiting” posts. Honestly, I don’t do these that often, but its an interesting point, particularly when considering that my own perspective on things is always growing and changing.

Looking into the way-back machine, I recall that this post was a continuation on a panel at Pantheacon earlier in the year. The panel was titled “Morphing the Myth” with S.P. Hendrick, Diana Paxson, and an Australian gentleman whose name I never did get. The focus of the panel was on the reintroduction of mythology through the more modern methodologies of books, comics, tv shows, and movies. There was a lot of focus on the reinterpretation of the myths by the writing and production teams that put these reinterpretations together. As is always the case for reinterpretations, there are changes that are made to the entire original story – most done for effect for an audience. Some of the changes include combining characters in the story into a single entity to allow for a more cohesive flow to the story, or the less popular adding a new character out of thin air. If you’re wanting an example of that, remember the addition of Tauriel to “The Hobbit” movies which were based on the novel of the same name by J.R.R. Tolkien.

Utilizing this addition to Tolkien’s beloved masterpiece, let’s apply the question at hand. Is this change to the story a good one? Or is it bad? That’s a double-edged sword. Having watched the movies several times, Tauriel is a good addition to the story in my mind. However, her addition does alter aspects of the story in a way that doesn’t stay true to the novel. People who have their first introduction to the Tolkien novels – and in some cases it will be their only brush with Tolkien’s works – will forever have the understanding that Tauriel is a primary character that Tolkien created. After all, while the movie is an adaptation, they will never know the difference until they pick up the book. The addition of Tauriel does alter the story of the original novel in a way that shoves the story in a different direction. In the far-flung future, there will be an understanding and perception that Tauriel and her story-arc, particularly with Legolas and Kili. In this instance, we have a movie bending the story-arc for a novel in a manner that changes the overall story. For better or for worse? Well, that depends on the individual you talk with. Purists will find the change to be abhorrent. Only a story line that remains true to the original novel will do. Others, such as I, will see the change in the storyline as bringing an element to the story’s arc that provides some integral aspects of cohesion to the story to help move aspects of the plot along. An example of this is where Tauriel argues with Legolas over why the Elves should be involved in pursuits outside of the woodland realm – that Elves are part of Middle-Earth and will eventually be drawn into the coming inevitable war. Again, depending on who you talk with, the perspective of its good or bad nature can be seen from either direction.

The same holds true for movies, tv shows, books, and comics featuring the Gods and Goddesses and even the Heroes of Mythology. To be able to capture an audience, the Gods and Heroes depicted are provided with personalities that sometimes feel like these might be antithetical to what can be derived from works of mythology. Personally, I’m not fond of the depiction of Loki in the movies. However, I understood why the director, producer, and screen writers went to the trouble of making this depiction. It helps drive the storyline, which helps drive the ticket sales. Getting people into the theater means creating story lines that resonate with people. Completely understandable. Is this a bad thing or a good thing when it comes to the actual mythology?

Well, I would posit a question in a slight pivot from this. Could the Gods be capable of the depictions that we see and read about? In some cases, the Gods are shown as growing – changing perspective from one point to another over the course of the story. Is this possible? Well, as controversial as what I am about to say may be – I do believe that is true and possible. The Gods can change. I am not saying that Loki will suddenly slip out of the perspective of a Trickster to suddenly take over the mantle of the God of Justice and Law from Tyr. What I am suggesting is that the Gods can change Their perspective on areas of understanding as it relates to human beings and this realm. Instead of seeing humans as mere playthings, a feeling of endearment which sees humans as something to treasure and protect could come about. That’s just an example though. My belief is that the Gods can change Their perspectives over time. In other words, I don’t see the Gods as being static and unchanging. As humans change, the Gods Themselves can change as well – without changing the primary aspects of who They are.

At the end of the blog post, I approached another point that is just as critical to this line of thought. The debate of written versus oral. As I noted, good storytelling comes in three forms: oral, written, and visual. However, the true nature of storytelling comes from the storyteller themselves. Many people know a particular tale that can be told around the fire, but if you let them all tell the tale individually and independent of one another (in other words, none of them hears any of the other storytellers before they tell their version at the fire), you end up with many versions that are different from one another. Some storytellers will embellish on a perspective with additional information. Some will omit aspects of the tale that they don’t wish to add, for whatever reason. Others will alter pieces in a manner that emphasizes the parts of the tale that they like over others. Yet, its all still the same tale. The tale grows, alters, and morphs with each telling. Such is the nature of storytelling.

Could we not also consider the myths and tales we tell around the fire of the Gods to be the same? Not set in stone – static displays that never change – but tales and retellings that grow and change, just as our culture does? Morphs into new retellings that have new backgrounds, new perspectives that mirror our more modern settings? Our more modern understanding of morals and behaviors? One of my favorite moments from the television show the Highlander has Methos trying to explain to Duncan McLeod why he slaughtered villages of people on the steppes of Russia, which eventually had him portrayed as one of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse. When trying to justify his killing of the villagers, Methos points out that: “…the times were different. I was different. The whole bloody world was different.” Indeed. We look at our Gods, at Their mythologies, through the lenses of today’s society. Like it or not, we’re all carved through the morals and judgments of today. We look and listen to the stories that were produced in a time far different from our own. Stories that have been altered through the passage of time by the storytellers who kept such things alive – adding, subtracting, altering with the changing societal perspectives of the times. We tend to see the written word as a safe lock against that constant change. If its written, it can’t evolve, it can’t be changed. We have the “truth” as it should be. But are we locking the Gods into one shape, never allowing Them the capacity to change, evolve, and live? Does locking Them down into perspectives only mandated from the written word keep Them in that state – never to change? Never to provide Them with the ability to see the world around us differently? If They can’t change, and we can…who would really be the God? Just a thought… Me? I prefer to see my Gods as living, evolving, changing…for me, that’s what makes Them alive. And I truly believe that They are. That’s how I experience Them. Perhaps that’s how I should have titled this back in 2016 – “How I Experience the Gods”. Here in the dawn of 2022, it certainly makes more sense to me. Thanks to my evolving and growing perception of Them. 😊

–T /|\

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

Working Ritual Without a Safety Net

Circles. Barriers. Keep the energies in. Keep the bad energies from working their way in. Create sacred space. Yeah, I’m not a huge fan of the idea of casting circles. For my own workings, its just not something that is helpful to my own state of my mind. Yet, it’s a strong, and firmly entrenched part of Paganism, as a whole. Even the rituals I have been a part of within OBOD has this process within it. Casting a circle is a very common part of Pagan practices. Except in mine.

To say that I feel alone in this particular area of thought is – in my mind – a deep understatement. I have yet to meet another Pagan that works their rituals in this manner. I have been told by others that essentially, I am working ritual without a safety net. That without such barriers, my rituals will lack focus and intention. That I will not be able to properly focus my magickal intentions, which will diffuse into the beyond, and have no focal power to brandish. When I would point out that my rituals were not meant to work magicks, thus I wouldn’t be too worried about much of those thoughts – I was asked “why do rituals in the first place?”

Many, many times this line of discussion has kicked off pointed lecture after pointed lecture aimed at me. Why ritual is important this way. Why casting a circle is a necessity. Why I’m doing this wrong. Why I’m doing that wrong. Why I’m a bad Pagan. I’ve spent a lot of years listening to statements like that. And countless hours trying to explain my perspective to ears that didn’t want to hear it. Enough that I’ve rarely spoken about my own approach to ritual over the past decade. Instead, I’ve just gone and done my own thing.

Honestly, its not been easy doing things on my own, utilizing an approach that I’ve always noted as being completely different than everyone else. It also stands as one of the primary reasons that I approach my own Paganism and Druidry without a group. I manage by using what works for me, without assuming that what I do works for any single person beyond myself. I don’t do things in ritual just because “everyone else does.” I do things in ritual because it works for me. Nor would I be presumptuous enough to stamp my foot and demand that things be done my way when I am working within a group. I always defer to what is more well understood by others in a group setting. When working in a group, its not about me. Its about the group gelling and working cohesively together.

Why no circle casting in my solo work? Well, to understand that, its best to first discuss why casting a circle is looked at as a necessity. Now, most of this is what I have gleaned through the various traditions and belief systems I have worked within and with – its not an exhaustive look at things. Rather, its what I know of within my memory. As I’ve said before, I’m not an expert on anything – except myself. Now, circles are cast to create sacred space – a point that exists between worlds, where magick can be done, rituals can be held, etc etc. Many believe this to be a physical barrier that separates our mundane world from the magickal. This barrier is set to create a safe place for participants to gather, for magick to be done – where the pains and negativity of the mundane world are removed. In my mind, this sacred space is an area of null value. Null being an area of nothing, where negative, positive, emotions, and such do not exist. This concept does not work for me.

I don’t cast or create sacred space because I hold that everywhere around me is already sacred space. I don’t need to cleanse it. I don’t need to define it. Its here. Its all around me. From the concrete jungles that mankind has created to the manicured suburban sprawl we all seem to live in to the wild, uncharted areas of the world – we’re already in sacred space. As for the negativity, the bad energies, the difficult emotions…all of that is a part of us. Banishing it means to deny its existence in the world around us. I don’t wish to exclude anything from my environment. Good, bad, indifferent…its all part of sacred space, in my mind. Instead of seeing a barrier outside of my ritual, I see a glowing sphere emanating outwards from my rituals. This is not a barrier, but rather the extent of my magickal working – the energy I am creating at that moment. Its not banishing anything. It co-mingles. It exists within this wide-open sacred space. Its literally my connection with the world around me.

Some traditions and belief systems call the Quarters or the Watch-Towers, setting wards and protections against the negative world about us. They ask for Spirits or Entities to watch over the ritual. I do something similar, except that I ask for the Spirits of the Wild, the Spirits of Place, my Spirits of Ancestors, and the Gods to come to witness the rite, should They choose to do so. All of Them are a part of my environment around me, so I don’t expect any of Them to come forward. But I do offer the invite…and not as Guardians or Protectors…merely spectators or witnesses. I don’t ever expect myself and my ritual to be the focal point of Their attention at that moment. I merely ask, and never for protection. Just to be there to see it occur.

I am told that by doing this, I am leaving myself open to the negative spirits of the world. That, in essence, I am operating without protection…working without a safety net. My response may seem a little flippant or even feel like I am challenging Fate: that negativity, those meddlesome Spirits…that’s all part of the world around us. To exclude that is to deny the whole aspect of where and what we live within. At least, in my opinion. I am not one to parcel my world into pieces, and then choose which I want to be in my daily life.

I completely grok the point that I may be working without a safety net by not casting circles or calling the Quarters or what have you. But I am not a proponent of putting barriers between myself and that which I see as sacred. Even when that sacred space is affected with pollution, negativity, anger, and all else that is considered as “bad.” The pollution, negativity, anger, and such are not what makes it sacred. The sacredness is deeper down. That is what I embrace by removing the barriers of circle casting and other methodologies. The sacred is underneath my feet, even when it is covered with the profane. I don’t want barriers between myself and that which I perceive as true sacred space. Thus, I work without that “safety net.” And in so doing, I get the lectures that I have gotten in the past. All well-meant. But, in my mind, unnecessary.

Paganism is Lived and Experienced

I read a lot of blogs over the course of the day, week, year… I rarely comment because either the individual who wrote the blog said things so concisely that I cannot find anything to add, or I disagree so much that it would sound more like I was complaining than providing a constructive point. On the last day of the year, over on the Druid’s Well, Catriona McDonald published the post “Thoughts at the Twilight of the Year.” This post brought a single point that rung completely true for me. In talking about the book “Sand Talk” by Tyson Yunkaporta, McDonald makes the following point:

Yunkaporta notes that becoming an agent at the center of a complex system isn’t in and of itself a terrible thing. It’s ok to be a strange center around which something can crystallize. But you then have to be able to step away and let the process continue however it needs to, with or without you.

And I think that is the danger of esoteric “projects”. In our culture, ownership is second nature. How do we let go of power and prestige to give these sorts of endeavors life of their own within their communities? It is so easy to make something “mine” instead of “ours”. As a friend and mentor so beautifully and gently put it to me once, “This isn’t your grove. This isn’t my grove. The grove is its own thing [being]. It belongs to all of us, we all bring our best to share.” It was a sorely needed ego check, and I’m so very, very grateful for this wisdom. I’ll always be afraid that I’ll lose sight of the “us”, even if it’s from the best of intentions. I need to trust that “us” will keep us all honest. Even when it means grappling with scary things.

Catriona McDonald, “Thoughts at the Twilight of the Year”

I have talked about leadership and such before. I have my own reasons for refusing to take up a mantle of leadership, in any sense of the word. Its not a Path I want my footfalls to be on. At best, I walk beside that Path, not on it. What I seem to be far better at, is helping people down their own Path. I’m not nudging them in directions I want them to go. I listen, I ask questions when I need to…and then I become a cheerleader for their progress and process. I’m trying to light that Awen within themselves…kindle that fire of self-inspiration that will help them move forward. I’m not here to fill their heads of how Magick and ritual work because of the way that I do it. I’m not here to explain how to be good little Pagans, Druids, Witches or what have you, by following what I do. I want them to follow what calls to them, as individuals. To find their inspiration to where it calls them. To explore. To be willing to make mistakes and learn from all of that.

But there’s so much more to glean from McDonald’s comments. As she noted, her friend and mentor made the point that the grove is its own being. That the grove is alive in its own unique way because of the people that are there, not because of a single individual. I’ve watched this first-hand at the Gulf Coast Gatherings I have attended. The opening, main, and closing rituals live and breathe with its participants. The initiation ceremonies have their own cadence fed from the expectant, nervous energies. The discussions that happen all over the camp outside of those ceremonial times can encompass anything from catching up on family news and goings-on to discussions on nearly any other subject. Remove a single individual from all of that, and the energies of the Gathering changes. Somewhat slightly, but its noticeable. I’m a solo Druid, red-cup variety if you will, so I can’t speak to the energies of a grove, but I do understand what McDonald’s mentor is noting here. Any group or gathering has its own collective energy, its own individual identity.

What makes Paganism, well…Paganism? Or Druidry for that matter? Or Wicca? Or whatever else you can toss into the mix? Its all the people. Our collective and constantly mingling energies. Our collective inspiration to be there for each other. Why do I attend initiations of various Pagans, even those that I don’t know all that well? Because I want to add my own happiness at their first steps on this new Path for them. Because I remember my own nervous energies during my own various initiations, and how the calming energies of others that were there was so serene, and so very necessary.

Not that long ago (December 28th to be exact), I had another Pagan tell me that I needed to do a particular thing in my practice to be an authentic Pagan. I posted my response to that statement on Facebook.

Uhm….no. What I need to be doing in my Pagan “practice” is what connects me to the Gods, my environment, and myself. If [this] happens to be helpful, then yes – I should be doing that. If it’s not, then I don’t need to be wasting time and energy on that and shift my focus to what makes those connections for me. Paganism is not some prescribed set of instructions that everyone follows until it becomes rote muscle memory. Paganism is meant to be lived and experienced (solely my opinion there).

People ask me what I believe Paganism is…my answer winds up somewhere along these lines. I’m not talking about what Gods you follow. I’m not talking about which of the many Paths in Paganism you choose to follow. It doesn’t matter if you do things on your own or in a group. Paganism is how it works for you, how you live it, how it connects you to everything else in this world – and even beyond. I can’t – and won’t – tell you how to do that. I can tell you and show you how I manage it. But that works for me, not necessarily for you. I connect by walking, reading, cooking, sleeping, and so many other activities. For me, just breathing awakens my Paganism…and sometimes, I’m not even sure about the connection it makes. But its there. I don’t turn off my Paganism and Druidry from a spigot. It’s a part of who I am. I carry it everywhere I go.

But I also must temper my thoughts. My Paganism, my approach, it works for me. But I am not Paganism. I am not the be-all, end-all of Paganism. Far from it. Paganism is wide, its diverse, it encompasses us all. Paganism is all of us. We all make Paganism what it is. It shrinks with the passing of our Elders. It shrinks when people leave it because it no longer speaks to them. It grows with each new person entering this Path. Its alive because of us. We may bicker and argue over issues like rituals, the appropriate approach to a particular God or Goddess, or even which Path is better. But welcome to humanity over all of that. Forever and a day, human beings have believed that their way is the only way, only to find out within the annuals of our collective history that its not really the case.

We’re Pagans. I am proud of that. We exist because we believe the way that we do. Our approach to daily life is as wide and varied as our Paths. But we follow this Path because it works for us. Whether you have been here longer than I have (which many, many of you have), or are just starting out…its your Path, and just as valid as anyone else’s.

Yes, our Paganism is lived and experienced, but as McDonald’s mentor points out – its not mine, yours, or anyone else’s. Paganism is us. Whether you are in a group or work your thing alone, we’re all a part of us. I, for one, am proud of my Path.

–Tommy /|\

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

You’ve Got This – You Really Do

2021 was one ride I didn’t really want to be on. My year started off showing me a dead-end I had been traveling. So, there was a bit of back-tracking that had to be done. Its never a great thing to be wrong, especially over a life choice – but that does happen. It’s a part of living life. The rest of the year was spent trying to unravel lots of things to get stuff back on-track. That eventually took place, and the end of the year was better than the start. But I’m glad to place 2021 into the rear-view mirror, and 2020 into the distant past. That’s about as much of a review of the year that I care to give. I’m still focused on moving forward, one single step at a time.

I spent the last posts of the calendar year looking ahead, into the future. I did this without tarot cards, runes, and what-not. Instead, I just did what data analysis has shown me to do – look at trends, cycles, data, and attempt to see where things go. It’s a terrible way to predict the future, but it was fun to look at the wider aspect of Paganism in a way I normally don’t. My usually tack in the wind is to focus on my own steps, not investigate the Path of others.

All of that brings me back to a basic point, which lays the foundation of my daily Path. I had a Pagan individual make the following statement to me.

You should be doing [this] in your Pagan practice if you want to be an authentic Pagan.

Well, it got my hackles up rather quickly. There’s one thing I don’t do is have others dictate to me what my Path will or will not be. After all, I’m the stiff that walks this Path daily, and I’ve been doing it long enough to know what my footfalls should be. Once I let my blood pressure lower, I responded back (gently) by explaining that my approach is one of connection. My daily “practice” (I really need to find a better word than this) provides me with the connection I need to my environment, myself, and my Gods. If what the individual was claiming to be “necessary” to be an “authentic Pagan” (whatever the fuck that might mean) brought meaning and use to my approach, I would surely adopt it into my daily Path. If this new approach, technique or whatever did not do that – I didn’t need to be wasting my time, energy, and effort on it. Really, its as simple as that.

For instance, I dabbled at tarot over the last year. I was hoping to find a divinatory process that might be useful for me. As it wound up, the cards are pretty and all, but the divinatory meaning that came up meant nothing to me. Thus, I do not do tarot any longer.

What then, does my Paganism bring to my life? Well, it’s a part of my life. My daily walk in life is informed by it. The Wheel of the Year provides me a basis to work from on ritualistic connection to the time of Year, the land around me, and my environment. My rituals – unorthodox as they may be – provide deeper context to my environment, as well as to myself. My spiritual beliefs help guide me through a daily existence by connecting me with the Gods. My primary focus is the betterment of my connections to the Divine, but I also try to practice kindness to all in every step and each breath I take. Life is not just about me. There are others that we all touch daily in our walk. How we interact with others matters – not just to ourselves, but also to them.

There will be others who will be saying to themselves now: “That’s not my Paganism. That’s not my [insert belief system here].” Not only will that statement be true, but it will also help to shape the directional aspect of their own Paganism. Your Spiritual Path is not some rote system of memory, which everyone else must aspire to – so they can be an “authentic Pagan” in your eyes. Everyone’s approach will be different. What they get out of their own Spiritual approach will be different. They are authentic Pagans because they follow what’s in their heart, what calls to their soul, what provides meaning to their own existence…whatever that may look like. I’m not the judge of what is or is not Paganism in the heart of someone else. Nor would I ever accept such a position. I’m an authority on me…not others.

Paganism, from my perspective, is something that is lived. It can be as mundane as lighting a few candles in your living room and performing a simple ritual to acknowledge the time of the year. It can be as elaborate as leading a large group of people in a complex ritual outdoors, designed to provide an ecstatic moment for all who attend. It can be anything in between that – and even beyond. Living what’s in your heart, reaching out to the Gods (if that’s your thing), experiencing the Wheel of the Year with your mind open and aware in every moment of a single cycle…to me, that’s living your Paganism. And Paganism is meant to be lived, in whatever manner you feel that connects you.

That’s my own personal perspective. All of that might be confusing to you, the reader. I grok that. I’m not always the most lucid in the world when trying to explain where my thoughts are. However, I do the best that I can. I make mistakes, just like any other person. After all, I’m a part of that difficult to predict data set, humans. 😊So, if you’re looking for advice (and don’t just take mine – find other Pagans and ask them) on how to handle your own approach to Paganism and whatever Spiritual belief system you ascribe to – all I can give to you is to be true to your own self. Try things. Explore. See if it works for you. If it doesn’t, set it down, and move on. There’s plenty of other options to try. Don’t be afraid to remake things in whatever fashion works best for you. After all, its YOUR approach to your own Spiritual Path. You know what works for you and what doesn’t. But to get to that point of knowledge, you must try. And try with full effort. And don’t worry, you’ve got this. Even if you feel that you don’t. You’ll find later down the line – that you really do.

–Tommy /|\

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Thinking About: Seasons Will Pass You By

Well, we all managed to make it to the end of another calendar year. Much like the previous year, this year has had its share of challenges. While those difficulties have been rough and tumble, we’ve all learned from each struggle and managed to continue. Certainly, we will see more struggles going into the future. More challenges that place us on the edge. But we will also have happy moments. We will have triumphs that equal – and surpass – the energy and emotions of our tragedies. That’s all a part of the constant cycle of life. Many will see this as an example of the metaphor for “circling the drain.” I see it more as a long trail up the mountain. As we climb higher, the climb gets more difficult in places. However, if we stop every so often, and turn around, we can enjoy the gorgeous view – and reflect on how much we have persevered to get to this point. As well as look up to the mountain’s pinnacle and realize there’s more to climb. We all climb the mountain for different reasons. Each of those reasons are personal and varied. Each are just as valid as the next person’s.

I have been taking some views towards the future of our collective Paganism over the past few posts. Today’s post will mark the end of that grouping of posts. I have had a lot of fun writing these posts. I’m not trying to predict the future of our collective Paganism. I’m not arrogant enough to believe that I have any measure of the pulse of what is to come. I can see the trends of the past, and attempt to predict what might happen. But as I have noted before, the troublesome data set remains the human beings. Human beings can defy logical reasoning and make choices that are antithetical to a reasoned trend. Human beings remain the unpredictable factor to a coming future.

Our collective Paganism will most certainly continue on into what is certainly an unpredictable future. What shape it takes, what ritual aspects it continues to observe…all of that is to be determined by the younger Pagans, as I have noted before. This could all look exactly the same or so radically different that those of us within Paganism barely recognize what it has become. Or it would be somewhere in-between. My bet is for somewhere in-between. But its not for me to decide that future. My chance for growing Paganism came during the late 1980s and early 1990s – and followed through to where we are today. I had a hand in that, as did all the Pagans of my generation. The coming future is not ours to design, move forward, and expand upon. That belongs to our younger Pagans, some of whom are my age. That’s right. I am fifty-(mumble-mumble). I’ve been on my Pagan Path since 1986. I was twenty when I took my first steps. Later that year, I turned twenty-one. But there are Pagans just taking their first steps on their own Pagan Path that are my age. Some even older. Their “new” eyes will help initially set the future in motion.

A future built on the stage we currently stand on. A stage built on the past of other Pagans. A stage built on the memories of Pagans who had a grand vision of the future that probably never approached their dreamed of future. That’s because the future was built by others who expanded on those visions with their own desires of what Paganism should become. Those also had a grand vision of what Paganism might become. Their younger generation steered that vision as it applied to their younger dreams. That cycle continues to this day and on into the future.

When I was in my younger years of Paganism, there were dreams of Pagan temples honoring the Gods standing side-by-side on city blocks with churches and in suburban sprawl like the current churches that litter our neighborhoods. There were dreams of an acceptance of Paganism and exultation of the acceptance of this wider belief system in the public world-wide. Neither of those dreams have been realized to any full extent. I sincerely doubt that these ever will come to fruition. While I still see seeds of this “need for wider acceptance”, the coming of Pagan beliefs manifested within an individual rather than a group has quietly extinguished much of that flame. For the most part, these solo Pagans (commonly referred to as “Solitaires” – a phrasing I personally eschew) are not trying to develop a Paganism that has buildings, temples, groves, and such readily available on every corner. Seemingly, they do not wish to create spaces with neo-signs standing out front, advertising the existence of such locations. Most solo Pagans I have encountered are quite content in seeing the entire world as their temple. From skyscrapers in the vast concrete jungles to the wide-open prairie lands to anywhere else. The truest temple we have is the world around us, according to this perspective. Honestly, it’s a perspective that I do ascribe to, so there is a strong degree of bias in what I write here.

With a current that skews far stronger towards that of the solo Pagan than to the Pagan group perspective, is this a future that I see rising? A Paganism where the group flavor diminishes? Where the dreams of established sanctuaries, temples, and groups do not come to fruition? I’d be a complete fool to say yes. Not only is the future impossible to predict, but established locations have already happened. Take, as a singular example, Circle Sanctuary. They exist. They thrive. If you are looking for a blueprint to work from – there it is. As with any blueprint, its model can be altered accordingly. What’s necessary for that model to thrive? Well, I’m not one-hundred percent sure, but I would imagine that it comes down to a core group of people that whole-heartedly believe in that vision. People willing to place their entire soul into the creation, maintenance, and growth of such an idea. Thus, I would never rule such an aspect out of the future. There definitely are those people out there. And despite what an analytical trend might say, they most certainly ARE a part of the future. That’s not hard to believe in. That’s not hard to see. What is difficult to ascertain is the size of their significance in that future. They will exist, regardless. They currently exist. The truer debate comes to the degree of their existence.

A few have asked what references and sources I have to back up my assertions. Aside from personal observance – none. I’m not some theological nerd who studies every aspect of theological perspective. I can barely talk the talk of a theologian. I have no studies in my background – other than the studies of Catholic theology and theory that were hammered into my head during my high school years. But to be fair, I’m not claiming to be “right” here. I’m looking at everything for a prospective of discussion. I’m not telling you that this concept of the future that I am writing is a “definite” thing. Merely that this is what I am observing and relating in these blog posts. I claim no stranglehold on the truth. I do not have the truth tied up and laying at my feet, eviscerated for the whole world to perform their own autopsies upon. I’m just me. One simple Polytheist Pagan Druid, just trying to make my way through life the best that I can. Just trying to draw up a touch of discussion on the idea of the future, even if that happens out of my eyesight and hearing. Nothing more.

To quote Yes’ “Close to the Edge”:

Close to the edge, down by the river
Down at the end, round by the corner
Seasons will pass you by,
Now that it’s all over and done,
Called to the seed, right to the sun
Now that you find, now that you’re whole
Seasons will pass you by,
I get up, I get down
I get up, I get down
I get up, I get down
I get up

Yes, “Close to the Edge”

Indeed, the seasons do pass us by. We observe them every year through the cycle of the Wheel of the Year. We use our rituals to mark the passing of time. We learn from the Past; we observe where we are in the Present. We don’t always talk about the Future, until the Veil thins or the physical calendar of the Year prepares to change (as I am doing here with these blog posts). Perhaps, we need to be more open about our Future throughout the Year? We cannot completely control our collective Future, but we can influence it to one degree or another. Do we want or need public temples? Is our collective Paganism going to move completely towards a solo perspective? Is the aspect of groups rising or waning? Or are we currently in the downside or upside of a cultural cycle within Paganism itself? Is this dynamic power-struggle between solo Pagans and Group-oriented Pagans a waxing/waning shift that continually occurs from our collective Past into our Present, and further on into our Future? Well, the “seasons will pass us by” …but I think these questions will wax and wane into the future…. only the continual slow roll of Time will truly tell. I, for one, am excited by the future that our younger generation of Pagans will bring forward. Likely, I will not be alive in this incarnation to see this – but I am excited by their dynamic energy, and their innovative manner of thinking. I hope I get to see just a glimpse of it all…just a glimmer. One day….

–Tommy /|\

Photo by Simon Berger on Pexels.com

Thinking About: I Want All Of It To Happen Again

I’ve talked a lot about how I see the short-term future for the split dynamic of group v. solo within Paganism. I’m not really trying to predict the future with these posts. Rather, I am looking to discuss some of the trends I have noticed over the past few years and draw potential conclusions. I present all of that here, as my own observations. Observations. Nothing more than that. I have noted in the previous posts that the data set that I am working with is human beings. Human beings, who can completely change perspective, actions, understandings, perceptions, and make wildly varied choices on a whim. Attempting to predict any of that is akin to predicting National Football League games and bet against the Las Vegas gambling spread. There are so many moving variables in play, that accurate forecasting of any sort of behavior can certainly be deemed as “folly” at its very best.

The direction I am about to take is on even more fraught ground. I want to discuss Pagan community and public events, especially against the backdrop of today’s COVID environment. We are now entering our third year with this virus. A virus which is not only deadly but can also have extremely acute repercussions to the health of those that survive it. It is very understandable why so many public and private Pagan gatherings have cancelled or re-scheduled during that time frame. Now, with the new Omicron variant being far easier to contract, as well as its apparent brushing aside of the protections from vaccines, boosters, and the cloth masks that we have all used for so long – well, you get the picture. Seemingly, we’re headed towards even more lockdowns, government regulations, and a rising tide of individuals headed for hospitalization, where wards are still crowded with patients from the previous wave. All that plays into where we are today.

But even before this viral outbreak, Pagan events seemed to be on shaky ground, especially the conventions. Probably the biggest convention name to pull out of yearly events was Pantheacon. I’ve been three times (three years in a row). Held over a weekend in a hotel near the San Jose airport, it was a widely attended convention. A nice cross-section of the Pagan community could be found there. Many authors and other widely known Pagans came in and gave talks (usually more than one) on so many topics. Pagan musicians would play little mini-concerts, and many Pagans and groups held very elaborate (and well attended) public rituals. The year after my last time there, Pantheacon announced that it would be their last, citing rising costs, lowered numbers of volunteers to help run the event, and burn-out by its core group of people as the primary reasons for shuttering the event. I have watched various smaller annual events in my own region pull back for similar reasons, as well as COVID. Many public rituals have cancelled or rescheduled their commitments, much to the disappointment of many Pagan-folk that were willing to attend the events under strict COVID protocols.

Many events and conferences have turned to an online format to handle their scheduling. Seemingly, this has worked well, though I can’t honestly say that I am aware of it being good or bad. I have yet to attend a single event held in this online format. So, I can’t really judge what its like. However, I know that this type of format doesn’t quench my need for the face-to-face interaction with others that I have encountered with others. I have attended a few online professional conferences, which were created to handle the same issues concerning COVID that the Pagan conferences and events have dealt with. I can honestly say, the networking side of things – one of the primary, unspoken functions of those professional conferences – is just not there. I imagine the same can be said for the online formats for Pagan conferences, rituals, and such.

What shape do Pagan functions take going into the future? This is hard to pin down. I can see many of the Pagan conferences headed to the online route. The online format can be pricey, but not nearly as pricey as running a conference that essentially takes over an entire hotel. That format seems likely to expand and be much larger going into the future. What about Pagan Pride Day events and other similar functions such as Witchstocks, Witchfests, and what not? As I noted, this is harder to pin down. Much of these “festivals” are geared around sales by various vendors. If Pagans decided to not attend these events because of COVID, that would drive down the sales of the vendors – much of whom drive the presence of such events. No attendance would essentially shutter such events. If COVID were to persist beyond where we are at now, as a collective society, I can see many of these events shuttering on a permanent basis. Let me be perfectly frank here, if our collective Pagan community stopped purchasing items from Pagan vendors – there would be far fewer Pagan vendors available. I really hate to tout the power of currency to keep a public aspect of the wider community alive – but its true. If our collective communities embrace online events in favor of other delivery methods, we are also going to need to embrace the online presence of those selling items to the Pagan community.

What about the public rituals that get held in various locations, including – but not limited to – Unitarian churches? Here, I see the potential for large, unlimited growth – particularly if the larger public rituals and events change their attendance aspects in favor of online. I think you might see small Pagan events being held at such smaller locations – with some of these events limiting the number of participants to stay within prescribed COVID limitations as set by federal organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Yes, I believe that Paganism will remain far decentralized when it comes to public events. At least, that’s the tea leaves as I read them.

As I noted, this area of the Pagan community is difficult to read, simply because human beings are involved. With COVID spiraling the way that it currently is, I can feel the Pagan Community having to find new online avenues to reconnect with one another – even if we live only a few blocks or miles apart. After all, we have families and ourselves to protect with this virus spreading its havoc. I’m not sure if anyone else finds this “forced” online interaction methodology to be inadequate, but I do. I find it limiting, and it feels quite impersonal. Yes, that’s an odd statement from someone who makes his living within Information Technology. But it certainly is how I feel. I crave that face-to-face interaction. Seeing people’s smiles. Hearing the inflection in their voices. The feel of their touch as we talk, laugh, and enjoy one another’s company. To me, that’s not just the future. It’s the present as well. It’s the past. I miss the interactions at Pantheacon. The giant bear hug I got from Kristoffer Hughes when I was headed to the airport for my flight back. The handshakes and hugs I got from all the OBOD members at the last Gulf Coast Gathering, as we all got ready to leave Louisiana and head back to our respective homes. Those moments were the pinnacle of those events. I sincerely hope that we get back to all of that soon. In the meantime, we must stay safe. So, all of that can happen again.

–Tommy /|\

Photo by Akil Mazumder on Pexels.com

Thinking About: Two Quid Into the Pot For Pagan Future

I sit here drinking coffee and eating muffins on a quiet, and dark Yule morning. The house is quiet. I’m the only one awake. The little furry children are dozing in their respective hiding places. I am spending the morning with the lightning riffs of Yngwie J. Malmsteen being pushed through the speakers of my headphones, a distinct memory from the late 1980s.

I have spent the past few blog posts looking at what I perceive to be some of the future of our collective Paganism. Much of that has been spent comparing the group versus solo rift that has existed within Paganism for as long as I have been on this path – and has existed long before my entry-point within our collective History. I touched a bit on the two extreme edges of Pagan thought in Reconstructionist perspective and Eclecticism, as well as some of the controversy in gender inclusivity, and the ongoing debate on what constitutes a Pagan. Simply put, the wider Pagan community has its share of issues to deal with going into the future. All of which, dare I note, will play great roles in shaping the Paganism of the future. A Paganism that I more than realize I will never recognize from the Paganism I am a part of today. But its also a Paganism that is not mine to shape beyond my time here.

It is somewhat strange to realize that all that I write here, all that I do within my community, my mere existence here – all of that will have only a small wrinkle going into the future. The Paganism that I am part of right now is vastly different from the Paganism I started with. The younger Pagans of the 1990s have helped to shape what I consider to be a “freer”, more diverse Paganism with their efforts to explore, alter, and expand thought. Those changes have re-ignited the debate over eclectic thought versus what is considered traditional Paganism today. Not that long ago, these traditionalist Pagans were considered the eclectic ones versus what was traditional Paganism then. I would posit that the same cycle will continue going into the future. Adding to that circle will be those new Pagans that seek to practice Paganism as “it was.” Another cycle that will carry forward into our collective future.

I have always been horrible at forecasting the future. Tarot? Nice distraction for me, but being able to predict anything with any degree of certainty? Well, pardon the pun, that’s not in the cards for me. My mundane life is in data analytics. Even within this industry, there is a level of prognostication that is expected. As if, the people who comprise this small arena of data reporting are modern-day fortune-tellers. Those of us in this part of the wider corporate industry are not. We analyze trends and predict the marketplace for commercial sales based on past histories, current trends, and other social markers. Frequently, those predictions are wrong. Because consumer habits are unpredictable. The same holds true for predicting where a religious belief system will go. Because people can make choices and choose not to continue with a trend. And that choice can be a sudden one-hundred-and-eighty degree turn that happens at any given moment.

The Pew Research Center has a trend analysis that depicts the overall percentage of people in the United States has been continually decreasing throughout the last decade or so. Where are these people going? Into a bucket entitled “religiously unaffiliated.” These folks aren’t leaving their faith, they seem to be leaving the constructs designed around their faith. Instead of having preachers, priests, and what-not as the middleman of their faith, they are choosing to approach divinity on their own. Sound familiar? We’ve already seen that happen here within our collective Paganism. The rise of solo, eclectic Pagans that are taking what they have learned (well, not all of them) in groups, and striking out on their own. A direction that I applaud, but only because a large part of what I do falls into this category. However, that doesn’t make it the “right move” for everyone.

But this group versus solo perspective will have its backlash. A move away from fundamentalist perspectives always contains a backlash from the fundamentalist perspective. Another symptom we’ve already seen in our Pagan communities. Not just recently, but even back in the late 1970s. Pagans who went it alone being presented as “crazy,” “unhinged,” or “not sound with the basics of [x tradition]’s practices.” Looking through history, you will find all kinds of backlash when people choose to make changes to their own fundamental principles of belief – choosing to remove the power structures and hierarchies that they perceive to hold them back from finding their own expression of worship, adoration, or ritual to the Gods they approach.

Again, I point out that most of my own personal belief falls into this realm. But, in no way am I advocating that the aspects of group work are bad or stunt the necessary growth of the members that are reaching out for new expressions of their beliefs through whatever means. Group work has always been one of the very best ways to learn the necessities to ritual, spell work and so many other aspects of Paganism. I will be one of the first to step forward and note that learning the basics is a necessary aspect to making ANY Spiritual perspective work for you. I know…that sounds weird coming from a solo, eclectic Pagan who does things his own way. But everything I do in my Paganism has a foundation that goes back to the basics. Everything I add to my Paganism starts with the basics of what I am adding becoming part of that foundation.

As I have said, our collective Paganism continues to grow and change. The future of Paganism doesn’t belong to an old fart like me. It belongs to the younger Pagans. The twenty-somethings. My goal isn’t to change Paganism. I’ve already had my hand in doing that. My goal is to help the younger Pagans with the concepts of what is fundamental now, provided they wish to listen. Not force them to see this or that as concrete principles of Paganism. To be honest, everything about Paganism can be up for grabs in the process of change. Remember, the future of Paganism is in their hands.

Have you ever thought about a Paganism where everyone meets online? Its already here – thanks to COVID. Many face-to-face rituals and events have abandoned that face-to-face format in favor of meeting online. Has that changed paganism? Has that altered our connections with our Gods? Has it changed the relevance of today’s paganism going forward? All good questions. None of the answers for these are truly going to come from all of us older Pagans. We will have input, but remember – sooner or later, we all pass beyond the Veil. The future generations will grapple with these choices, bending and shaping our Paganism into their own. Good or bad, depending on the opinion of others.

Do I hope that the future of Paganism leaves a Paganism that I recognize, a Paganism that remains the same as it is now? Certainly, I do. That’s my own selfishness stepping forward to claim that desire. The reality will be different. That may be the only certainty that I can continue to grasp as an immutable truth. Based solely on the fact that they are not me, and I am not them. Of course, I do have to step back and point to my shitty track record of predicting the future. 😊 After all, I’m not perfect, and I have no stranglehold on the truth or the future. Just two quid into the pot….

–Tommy /|\

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Howling Into the Wind: What is a Pagan in the Future?

Sitting here looking at where else to peek into the Pagan corner for something to peel back for the future…I keep coming back to the group versus solo perspective. Wrapped up in all of that is an aspect I am reticent to even approach, but it’s a part of how our collective Paganism grows into tomorrow, as well as today: the perspective of “authentic” Paganism. How can you tell “authentic” Paganism from the “fake” stuff? Is there some kind of 3-d sticker affixed to it like Major League Baseball uses for baseballs used in actual play? How do we deal with this going forward into a future that already feels so nebulous and shaky?

To be perfectly frank, I don’t really have an answer. After all, there is some aspect of my own personal Paganism and Druidry that others would not find to be “authentic”. I’m not coursing backwards into history to find where and how our Pagan and Druid ancestors did their rituals. I’m not trying to locate scholarly fields of work to slap an “authentic” sticker on what I do. Instead, I’m doing what feels “correct” for me. I’m not worried about finding a common thread back to the past. I have that with my Spirits of Ancestor. Nor am I worried over those that would believe my approach to be “inauthentic” to theirs. I know my Path works for me. I also know that my approach is unlikely to work for others, which is the sole reason I do not denigrate how others approach their Paganism. Whatever it is, it likely does not work for me, but that doesn’t mean I have to treat it as inferior. Because it’s not.

I catch more than my fair of shit for taking this hands-off approach to Spiritual Beliefs. I should denounce this, showcase the incorrect aspect of this, proclaim the wrongness of these others. Look, I’ll be honest here, unless you are engaging in human sacrifice, enlisting people (especially children) for sex in exchange for the “secrets” of the occult, or mutilating/killing animals…I’m likely to move on from saying much about your approach. The rest of that stuff that I mentioned? Well, I’m more likely to contact the local authorities and let them sort things out. But I will state my opposition to those actions. So, there is a line that I draw in the sand. But I’m not here to denounce things – rather, I am here to discuss how beliefs that are different from our own move forward into the future as well.

Or do they? I have often wondered if some of the Pagan community was going to come together and form something akin to the Council of Nicea. Where what is or isn’t Pagan would be decided. This is Pagan, but that is not. I remember the ludicrous “Are You Pagan Enough?” diatribe that went on quite a few years back. I always wondered who had died made folks into a Pagan Pope that could decree what could and couldn’t be included under the wide, and very diverse umbrella of Paganism? Now, looking into a near future of Paganism, I can see where the sweet, delicious aroma fed that hunger. Being able to decide what could or could not be included within a single vision of what makes a Pagan…well, Pagan.

Yet, we have these inclusion arguments all the time. At Pantheacon, the year before I attended for my first time, there was an aspect that kicked off the TERF argument/discussion that has been going on since. If an individual identifies as a female but was born as a male – should they be allowed into a ceremony or ritual for Women’s Mysteries? And vice versa for a ritual or ceremony for Men’s Mysteries? I don’t have an answer for this. My gut feeling is that if you identify as a female – you attend stuff for Women’s Mysteries. However, not my ceremony – not my call. That’s like me saying that a Wiccan Priestess should be allowed into a grade initiation for my Druid Order. While I am a member of the Order, that’s not my ceremony – its not my call. Of course, this is moving off the topic slightly, so let’s push this back on-track a bit more.

Going forward, into our near future, we are going to see changes. This is what happens when the “new” Pagans begin to grow and feel the length of their legs. They begin to walk with more confidence in what they are doing. They begin to reach for something new, different, inviting to their senses. Things begin to evolve as the older generations shuffle off this mortal coil and cease to be unspoken obstacles to those changes. That cycle will repat going into the future as well, as the generations grow, and new generations come to take their place.

As I have said before, I have been on my Pagan Path for thirty-plus years. I’ve seen my share of new Pagans. Some stay on their Path, some alter their Path slightly, and some leave it altogether, confidant that this was not the place for them. All of that is natural. This that stick around will eventually come to this same point – being an Elder in the Pagan community. I hate the perspective of being an Elder, because I see so much more growing on my own personal Path. I may have been here for so long, but I still have that “shiny, new” feeling about Paganism as a whole. Regardless, I know I am looked at with the lens that places the nameplate right underneath me in the vision of younger Pagans: “Elder.” Just because of the years. In a manner of speaking, it also places me in the sphere of feeling like a parent to some degree. Where I sit and wonder if the Pagans that are stepping into those roles of leadership that open – do they have what it takes to continue to grow this movement that we have?

This, I believe is the crux of the question of looking into the future. Will all this still be here? I daresay that for many of us older Pagans that have traversed this Path for so long, it’s a thought that’s crossed our minds before. If you read the previous blog posts, you know – maybe in a subtle way – that my answer is “yes”, and “no.” Paganism is not going to wither and die. Some of the Paths, that could be true. But Paganism is a wide open, extremely diverse grouping of belief systems. Some might call it a catch-all grouping. Everything that doesn’t fit the “Big Five” falls here. That could be true. I view Paganism as being a set of belief systems that revere Nature as divine and spiritual. Worthy of respect and worship. For me, that’s the binding agent. Nature. An awe for the mystery of all that is Nature, in its many guises, aspects, faces, and senses. That reverence will be here long after my bones have dried, become dust, and scattered elsewhere on this planet. That reverence of Nature will not the same as it is now. The Paganism of the future, rooted in that growing Nature, will utilize the Paganism of today as its root core. Rituals, myths, legends, and even deeper resonance with Nature will be built up from the foundation that will come from our Paganism today. As Damh the Bard sings:

The Ancients opened the door,
We’re the same as ever before,
We will hear you forevermore,
Evermore.
So by peace and love we stand,
Heart to heart and hand in hand,
On the shoulders of giants we stand.

Damh the Bard, “On the Shoulders of Giants”

…going into that future, we will be the shoulders that they stand upon. We will be the raising of the foundation, ever higher.

Is there a future for all elements of Paganism, I ask? “Of course there is, you git!” is the likely response I am to get. Its true, there is a future there. We don’t need a litmus test to allow entry into the future of Paganism. All the arguments on inclusion for this, that, those others – those will move forward into the future as well. Consider them as individual Rubik’s cubes. Currently unsolved, but one day – a few smart Pagans of the future will get together and find the way to resolve each one. I have faith that will happen. Because I have faith that all of us that identify as Pagans will always find a way to make things work. We’ve always managed to make do with our Rubik’s Cube solutions. Even if we just peel the stickers off and put them back on in the form of the solution. 😉

Photo by Marko Blazevic on Pexels.com

This post was written with Keith Jarrett‘s “The Köln Concert” album as my background music.

Rolling the Crystal Ball Out to the Fire – Pagan Future Anyone??

I’m writing the Tuesday blog early. Its Monday night, its dark outside…just wanting to set the mood a touch here. 😊 I love dark nights out by a fire, just sitting and talking. That’s sort of the direction I want to take this post. As I said in the previous post, I plan on utilizing the rest of the calendar year’s schedule for posting to reflect on the future of Paganism. At least the future as I see it through my lens. Please remember, I am not trying to stir controversy with all of this. Rather, my goal is to stir conversation. From conversation we can derive so much more than we can from argument and debate. Conversation stimulates creativity, and creativity allows one to add to conceptual perceptions of matters that have yet to come forward.

I’ve got a job waiting for my graduation
Fifty thou a year’ll buy a lot of beer
Things are going great, and they’re only getting better
I’m doing alright, getting good grades
The future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades
I gotta wear shades

Timbuk 3, “The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades”

Not sure if people remember this song. I always enjoyed it. Cheesy lyrics, but still fun enough to make you grin and remember those first steps into the wider world. Speaking of which…and turning back to the point of the Pagan future…think back, do you remember when you started down your Pagan Path? Well, I do. Let me get our fire started first.

Ever seen a fire start with a big boom like that? Nearly burned my eyebrows. LOL I probably need to use a lot less lighter fluid, eh? Anyways, that first step into Paganism. I remember mine. I was learning from the folks that had learned from the Wiccans in the Dallas/Fort Worth area back in the 1970s. They had learned from others who had learned from others in the 1960s…blah, blah, blah. This group begat that group which begat those groups. Apparently it was a lot of begats. Well, joking aside, lineage was a big thing. Where you learned from and who was important. Being part of a group was a big thing. Being on your own…usually provided you with a (sometimes) undeserved reputation of being shaky and shady. After my first year within a group, my initiation came with a notation that I was the future of the information I was learning. I would assist in passing the information on to future members. The implication was that there would be no changes to what I was learning. It came from here which came from there which got it from this other place.

Then the late 1980s hit. Pagans everywhere were finding books on the Barnes and Nobles bookshelves (about the most comparable example to today’s online Amazon), which taught the reader who to be an [x] Pagan. With the advent of the books came the perspective of comparing materials in every direction. What was different than we had been taught? Why this and not that? Experimentation, exchange of materials happened, new directions were found – brand new Pathways were beginning to be created. For your traditionalist, your reconstructionist, the purists…this was sacrilege. But we are talking a generation of new Pagans that came from my generation. I’m a kid of the late-1970s and mid-1980s. Rebellion was our calling-card. Our parents were outraged over the idea of Satanists among their midst. We flocked to Slayer, Mercyful Fate, Metallica, and Exodus for musical influences. We bought LaVey’s “Satanic Bible” believing we were touching something truly evil – which it was, but from a marketing standpoint rather a content context. We ate up the ridiculous concept of backward masking on albums, believing that messages were recorded backwards to fill our minds with “secret” messages and commands that were derived directly from Satan. Why? Because we wanted to be “different” than our parents. We rebelled against the corporate image projected on to the business world by IBM with its starched white-collar shirt with dress pants, and black dress shoes. We embraced the technological revolution, whose icons looked like we wanted to – wild hair, t-shirts, jeans, and tennis shoes. We were looking for ways to do things our own way.

Even today, experimentation is frowned upon. Deviation from the script is considered as impolite, rude, even sacrilegious. But, just like the technological revolution sought to revolutionize the way people worked – many of the younger Pagans looked for ways to revolutionize the Paganism they were taught. Not to change Paganism, but to EVOLVE it. The technological revolution provided employees with the power of a mainframe system (which typically took up an entire floor) in a box with its own monitor, mouse and keyboard that could be set on your desk. A room half the footprint of a mainframe could contain the power of dozens of mainframes, all at desks that employees could manipulate things as they needed to, without the “High Priests of technology” (the individuals operating the mainframe in a locked, enclosed area) being the middleman. As these new Pagans had grown up in the churches that their parents forced them to, they had been living under the concept of that same middleman, in the form of the Preacher. These new pagans in the 1980s wanted to take something that “sort of” worked for them and transform it into something new. Something that spoke directly to them. And they were lambasted for their efforts. I watched all that happen. I watched Pagans walk away from their covens, away from their groups – and reach out on their own. Essentially becoming the rejected solo practitioners that they had been warned about. Because groups had the lineage – and that was the SOLE truth.

Now, before I get tackled, bagged, and quartered for slamming on groups…I’m actually not. I am however, presenting an aspect of historical notation to the growth of Paganism…utilizing a SINGLE aspect of the huge growth of Solitary exploration that has happened all the way through to today. The groups that utilized lineage as the example of their Path – they are still here in Paganism. And still a big part of all of what we are, collectively, as Pagans. Solo Pagans and Pagan groups have existed side-by-side – and continue to do so. Just as white lighters, chaos magicians, fluffy bunnies, and Pagans of nearly every descriptive that you can devise have also established their own basis. Not everyone agrees with everyone else. Some are seen in a negative light by others – but regardless, they are all here. Me? I have a foot in both camps. Most of my Paganism and Druidry is done on my own. Yet, I am still a member of the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids (OBOD). A few times a year (when COVID is not closing the doors on gatherings of people), I spend time with my fellow OBOD folks in a group celebration. Solo doesn’t mean being alone.

Let me throw another twig on the fire. Maybe I can find one with a lot of leaves, so we can get some smoke going. Sort of like what a lot of folks might think of what I’ve written so far. Which is fine. I’m not trying to appeal to everyone’s sensibilities, merely to get a conversation started. So, the future of Paganism? Groups or solo? I’ve watched the growth of the solo Pagan over the years. But groups haven’t been stagnant either. There’s been growth there as well. New Paths have started, flourished, and stepped into bigger roles within the wider community. Will our Pagan future include only a solo Path or fall back to the Groups and lineage perspective? I can’t say for sure. Predicting a Paganism that resembles a no-rules Woodstock fest utilizing a Pagan past that is much closer in scope to a 1950s coffee-house gathering…is a touch impossible. The data points are just not there to foster any kind of predictive analysis. And you know what? I’m supremely elated over that. I look at these new generation of Pagans, and I see their creativity, their excitement of exploring a Spirituality that is wide open to them…and I envy them. They are stepping into a new world that is ready to unfold for them in ways that I could never fathom. My way of doing my Paganism, my Druidry, my own Spiritual practice – all of that might fade into the dark of history after I pass away with no one to carry that aspect forward. I’m ok with that. My voice was here. It will carry on into the ages of tomorrow in whatever form. But I am elated that their voices are here – that they will carry on. That future generations will find these voices and be inspired to their own ends. What does Paganism look like in the future? Fuck if I know. But its going to something stupendous, beautiful, and amazing – provided we let it grow. Provided we remain respectful of perspectives that are different from our own. Because that’s the carrier-wave that everything else is built upon. That’s our electronic ark to the future.

Let’s face a touch of reality. Paganism today is not the same as the Paganism of yesteryear. Paganism of tomorrow will be very, very different to the Paganism of today. Our collective Spirituality evolves on a steady pace. Some of it picks up the pieces of today’s social mores, the hot political takes on the world around us, and melds all that into a newer, fresher Pagan perspective. One that appeals to the younger generations that are among us. When I was a younger Pagan, the huge majority had stepped away from a religious perspective of our parents…typically as a measure of flying them the finger as we stepped out to live our own lives. Today’s younger Pagan may also be doing that, but there are newer pagans who have lived with Paganism all their lives and were afforded the opportunity to decide their own Spiritual perspective. They likely won’t have the Revolutionary’s heart within them. Nor the measure of defiance that Pagans of my generation did. As Bob Dylan once lamented, “the times they are a-changing.”

I sincerely doubt that Paganism’s future will be anything close to what imagine. But that future is not mine. That future is for the younger generation to decide. My generation built much of today’s Paganism. Yes, this chaotic, seemingly uneven, deeply messy Paganism that we currently have. For those looking for a structured, orderly version of Paganism – where everything would be bagged, tagged, and set neatly to the side. Well, sorry. That can happen in your corner, but Paganism is much wider, far more, open, far freer, far wilder, and more feral than many may have imagined it to be. Its certainly far beyond what I ever dreamed of back when I started down this path. Frightening in some respects. In comprehensible in others. But damn it’s a gorgeous sight to behold. Paganism may seem like a hot mess to some, but it’s the freedom to reach for the beyond of our nearby environments that lets that shapely beauty out of its jumpsuit for me. Many parts of Paganism are not my cup of tea, but I am thrilled that they exist.

I truly do envy the youth within Paganism. Where Paganism is today may feel chaotic to others, but to me I see the wide-open portal to the stars…the opening to something that has the possibility to be even more. What will they create with all this available to them? I can’t even imagine. I wish and hope I am around long enough to just dip my toe into the depths of what they start. I feel its going to be incredible.

Just one Pagan’s opinion….

–Tommy /|\

Thinking About: Advancing Technology With Advancing Spirituality – Looking at the Future

For the rest of the calendar year, I’ll be writing posts that are aimed at looking at the future within our collective Spirituality that we call “Paganism.” All of these posts will be my own personal perspective, but is aimed towards creating a conversation looking towards the future. Mine is only one of so many different perspectives. No matter who you are – some Big Name Pagan, a simply blog writer, an author, a member of some coven or grove, a solo Practitioner…your voice is just as much a part of our future as anyone else’s and carries equal weight – no matter what we may individually think. This…is just mine…and the start of my voice in that much wider conversation. You don’t even have to join in with what you think, but I do ask that you take some time to turn the idea over for yourself and examine it.

It’s a cold morning. Winter is making another push into Tejas. I’m hoping that it’s a push for the colder weather to stay. After all, it never feels Winter when its nearly 70F, no matter if the calendar says “December” or “February”. ::smile:: My hard drive of music, with the help of MusicBee, has me starting my day with Cross Canadian Ragweed. Its just my massive music collection set to “AutoDJ”. 😊

As is my usual option, I spend my morning with headphones on, reading what little news I care to, blogs, and other things. I ran across an odd story that piqued my interest though. The headline blurted out: “’15 Minutes to Save the World: A Terrifying VR Journey Into the Nuclear Bunker.” Apparently, according to the article’s author, this is a Virtual Simulator to showcase the terrible responsibility of the President of the United States during a showdown against the Russians, who have utilized a “first-strike” option. The entire perspective, which is the author’s attempt at working the simulation, is an attempt by the simulator’s creator to instill some fear into the VR operator over the pressure that one chooses. The simulation provides three options, along with the estimations of associated losses. Or, if you want to, you can choose to utilize some options to achieve a different goal (which is not explained in any detail). You can even choose to do nothing. The author describes his feelings and emotional state at having to make what is certainly a Gods-awful choice, no matter what choice is made.

I never had the awesome responsibility of having to make such a choice when I served. I was a lower-level Non-Commissioned Officer (enlisted) at the height of my eight years in the Air Force. I was; however, part of the Command-and-Control Communications group. I was in charge of (sometimes) getting such commands as nuclear launch and strike out to the military units that held the keys to those weapons. Desert Shield/Storm, I was part of a team that was responsible for getting air strike missions, weather conditions, tanker aircraft location missions for planes to refuel, and many other pieces of information to the fighter squadrons tasked with a multitude of missions. I was easily nothing more important than a single cog in the mechanics of a well-trained and rehearsed war machine.

The realities and emotional fear were no different than what the author describes. We had training scenarios that put our unit on a war footing very quickly. We rehearsed our part of the mission – getting orders identified, quantified, authenticated by our upper command, and delivered down the chain of authority for nuclear mission launch and other related activities – just like it was the real thing. Many times, we were never informed that our training scenario was just an exercise. That was done to make us work exactly like we should during a “real-world” scenario. We trained on scenarios of what to do if our unit’s chain-of-command was compromised by issues such as hospitalizations, untimely absences of key personnel, and one time we even dealt with a scenario of the bunker being directly attacked and breached. The point of these exercise was to make sure that our actions for the appropriate movement of information was consistent with security protocols that we needed to maintain. We were also trained to think on our feet to deal with equipment failure, including commercial services that some of our equipment relied on. We trained so that dealing with things was rote memory. We could do our jobs without having our fears and emotions overwhelm our capability to do what has always been an unthinkable and wholly unwanted scenario.

Its been a super long time since I was in the Air Force. I’m sure a lot of the things that I remember have changed. I know the equipment has been upgraded and updated. Technology continues to change regardless of what else happens. That envelope of cutting-edge technology continues to progress. Information technology equipment that I used in the field is long outdated and useless in today’s digital environment. My equipment was the last-stand for analog technology in an approaching digital world for the 1990s.

Great back story to the VR simulator and all that, right? But this is a Pagan blog. Aimed at Pagan concepts within personal spirituality. What does all this have to do with all of that? Well, not much – really. But it does showcase one point that even I don’t pay much attention to. Progression of belief systems.

I can tell you right now, spiritual beliefs have changed a lot since the mid -1980s. Rituals have changed a lot since that time. Perspectives of what spiritual beliefs encompass have changed greatly as well. Many of the concepts and tenants that I remember have changed. For instance, attitudes concerning trans-gendered folks have entered into the spiritual environments that we have. This wasn’t something that had even been approached back in the 1980s. In fact, during the 1980s, the biggest fight seemed to be centered on Mens v. Womens Spirituality. Was it right to mix the genders? Was it right to separate them? What should be done out about those that identified beyond being straight? Back then, those seemed to be the driving questions of the day concerning spirituality. Now, everything is more complicated, more difficult to determine, and crosses into other areas of territory. What about skin color? What about the genetic line of the individual versus the conceptualized perception of the Spiritual path in question? Much like Technology has changed, so has our Spirituality.

Personally, I could give a flying fuck about any of that. If a person wants to be a part of a Spiritual path, my opinion is that they should be allowed to explore it. I certain don’t hold the Gods to be crusty, old, unbending Beings that would deny someone the chance to explore a Spiritual perspective based on some societal norm from the 1300s. The again, I’d be trying to feed you a shit sandwich if I didn’t add that I also don’t know the minds of the Gods. This is all speculation on my part. But it is the direction that I would take, and prefer to believe the Gods to be open to change, just as we are all open to the changes that come down in Technology, whether we completely agree with those changes or even like them.

The creator of the Virtual Reality simulation is trying to open the minds of folks as to the awesome responsibility of a nuclear launch and the emotional aspects tied to it. Yet, one thing is not taking into account: each individual that steps into the simulation has a different perspective on how to handle the moment. As the article denotes, many people made different choices. Some chose actions that made things worse. Some choose actions that didn’t. Some decided to not act. There’s no denotation of other critical aspects, such as the emotional state of the individual at the time before the simulation begins. Trust me, while the President does go through exercises to handle the responsibility, he/she/they is not provided the training of pushing emotions aside to do their jobs, like the military personnel who will carry out that choice have been. It’s a difficult job, certainly.

What about us folks dealing with choices in our Spirituality? As I noted, our issues are wider, far more diverse, and equally divisive within our wider Community. I know my feelings and perspectives when it comes to exclusion of individuals based on their biological perspectives at birth versus where they are today. I have no barriers for people based on stuff like that. Born as a male but now identify somewhere else? What you feel to be now is what you are. I know that doesn’t always wash in terms of Mens mysteries versus Womens mysteries, but I’m not one to split the “sexes” either. All of that is difficult terrain to cover because we are all individuals. We all have our own perspectives to cover. We can disagree on issues like this. We can even go into exclusionary Spirituality. But unlike the VR Simulation, we’re not given the information of what such choices will cause. The only way we know the aftermath is to select a choice and move forward. And often, we human beings make choices hastily. We worry about the consequences when we arrive. Because we don’t have a virtual reality simulation to show us the potential consequences of what those choices will cause.

One last thought. The Virtual Reality Simulator that the author crows about in the article. It certainly does show you the causes of your choices. It provides you with estimations of the deaths caused. But a simulator is a programmed set of instructions. I’ve enough programming under my belt to know that a simulation is a set of instructions that show a suggested outcome chosen by the individual programming the machine. An individual with their own set of biases and opinions on how things will happen. Your opponent in the Simulation is a set of ones and zeroes designed to follow a flow-chart of decisions based on a small set of perspectives. Biased perspectives…of the programmer. For the Spirituality outline that I am drawing parallels from, there are many biased and perspectives. None of them a set of choices and outcomes. All of them based on individuals that may be reacting from an environment of personal crisis of their moment. Their choices today might be different yesterday or tomorrow base don the day they are having. It might even be different from hour to hour, minute to minute. How much an effect each of those differences will have – cannot be measured by anyone other than the individual. I learned that from so many nuclear release drills that I was exposed to. Every individual reacts differently from moment to moment. It’s the sole reason that I don’t place too much faith in any programmed simulation or even in the results of any practiced drill. I can only place faith in the moment, with its own programmed flaws.

#JustSayin’

–Tommy /|\

Photo by Tomas Ryant on Pexels.com

Howling Into the Wind: Culture Wars Are Not About Culture…Its About Choice

My last blog post touched along the lines of the so-called “War on Christmas.” Well, all of that is really just a smaller symptom of a larger movement that is moronically known as the ‘Culture War.” Personally, I feel that the concept of “culture wars” is ridiculous and built on a desire to bring America back to a period of history (depending on the time of the culture war’s moment) where an aspect of personal and individual morals are perceived to be more connected to those who are in conflict with the popular culture of the time. First, a touch of history…

History

According to Wikipedia (not the greatest source, but handy and somewhat useful), the concept of the “culture war” goes back to the roaring twenties here in the United States – a type of backlash against popular culture. It was epitomized in the Presidential campaign of Al Smith in 1928. After that moment, it sporadically rises throughout the decades until the beginning of the 1990s. Far right-wing Republicans (we still here from these out of touch people to this day) latch on to Republican candidate Pat Buchanan during his battle with candidate George H.W. Bush. Buchanan railed against the rise of environmentalist, and the new rise of feminism as indicators that the destruction of traditional American morals and perspectives. Needing an enemy beyond the party’s nomination, Buchanan painted Democratic Presidential candidate Bill Clinton and his wife Hillary as examples of the individuals that would seek to permanently destroy America values. Buchanan also added controversies on the Confederate Battle Standard, tax-payer funded art, and even the backlash against his culture-war perspective to a growing list of perspectives that required Americans with a morality stand similar to his own to draw lines in the sand. Hardcore Republicans, seeking a rallying cry to unite Republicans everywhere gathered up these perspectives and utilized these in perverted manners to proclaim an “Us v. Them” standard within politics that remains to this day.

For me, I recall these being driven hard by the Republicans on such historical moments in time such as the “Tea Party” move to galvanize the Republican fear of being swamped and destroyed by anything that didn’t hold their narrow cultural perspective, and the rise of the culture-war’s hero – Fox News’ popular “commentator” Bill O’Reilly. Let me tell you, fear, anger, outrage – these emotions are easy to attain. The leaders of the “culture wars” perspective were well-versed in how to foment these emotions, while attaching all of it to their cause of the moment, thus creating that deep “Us v Them” divide. A divide that has gotten deeper and more agitated over the years, as we now stand on the Grand Canyon-esque precipice we find ourselves in within today’s society.

Back in the early and mid 2000s, I watched Bill O’Reilly’s tv show “The Bill O’Reilly Factor”. I listened to him and his selected guests rail in anger against Clinton, Obama, and even from time to time George H.W. Bush, and his son. From time to time, O’Reilly would have Democratic commentators such as the late-Alan Colmes and Juan Williams on the show to provide an opposite perspective. However, O’Reilly treated these “guests” as straw men for his other hosts to attack and destroy. The show turned into a weak version of the World Wrestling Federation, with these guests in the traditional role of being the heels. In late 2005, I decided to stop watching because the show had become a caricature of itself and could rarely be seen as anything serious, beyond being an hour-long propaganda show aimed towards shilling O’Reilly’s books, which were written to foment more fear and anger. Believe me folks, fear sells quite well, as evidenced by O’Reilly’s top-seller status on the New York Times book lists.

When O’Reilly eventually left Fox News, more sellers of fear have taken his place – Sean Hannity, and Tucker Carlson most prominent among them – both of whom are more cartoon characters than anything anyone should take seriously.

My Thoughts

Within today’s fear-driven politics, the real background that everything is played against is this so-called “culture war.” As I said, fear is a great motivator. But what exactly are these folks fighting against? Well, they want a Beaver Cleaver world. They are offended by people making life choices of their own that fly in the face of older societal codes of so-called “morality.” Digging deeply, you will find that their fear is about encountering people with different morals than they have. They fear that their children will make their own choices and choose an avenue that they – as parents – would never choose. They claim this is a battle for the minds and morality of the youth. Really, its just a strong reaction to the change that comes from a younger generation. The younger people are choosing their own Path. Many choose a different way than their parents. Out of rebellion or what not, its their choice to make. Just as it was my generation’s choice to live life to a degree of excess back in the 1980s. We colored our hair wildly and vividly. We wore clothing that defied the normal “sensibilities” of our parents. We made our choices of who we wanted to lead us politically. For some of us, this led us into Paganism, where we found the acceptance of who we are and what we believed. For others, they made decisions to live lives much closer to what their parents had done.

Choices. In my mind, this is what the so-called “culture wars” is really about. Its about the choices that people make for their own lives. Make the wrong choices, according to these loud, over-bearing right-wing fanatics – and you find yourself on the outside of society. Take away those choices that are considered to be “repugnant” and leave only the choices that are “acceptable” and society will become as they dream it to be.

Folks, I’m in my fifties now. I’m set in the way I live my life. I can make small, individual choices, but none of that is going to skew the way I live my life. The culture war isn’t about me. Its about those younger folks, who are malleable at this point in their lives. The culture war is about herding them into a direction of choices that would be acceptable to a small group of others. Personally, I could give a flying shit what choices the younger generation makes. Become a Republican. Drink the Kool-Aid of the right or left in this country. Just leave all of the choices on the table, so they can make up their minds as they wish to. Removing all of their choices is the same as removing their freedom. We may as well take aptitude tests and assign people to jobs and income brackets based solely on those tests. What does a society look like when its only given a small group of choices? Ask the former Soviet Union citizens from the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s.

Closing This Out

This is only a small area of my thoughts on this particular subject. Yes, this is political in nature, because of the focus of what the so-called “Culture War” is. This is only my opinion. My perspective. Others can – and definitely will – disagree with me. I’m not saying that I am completely correct in what I am saying – merely that is what I have seen from my seat in history. Its not the Republicans that I find vile, so if you’re a Republican reading this and come to that conclusion, I understand why you did. But that’s not my position. Republicans and Democrats are about how the governmental aspects of this country get managed and run. My beef comes from those who dictate what choices the younger generations will have. Right or wrong, this younger generation has the right to make their choices. Those choices of right and wrong are the experiences that they will grow and learn from. To arbitrarily remove those choices, simply because you don’t feel others should choose this or that…in my estimation, you are robbing them of a full life. Essentially placing them at gun-point to make a smaller, defined set of choices – just so the youth can usher in a long-lost point of generational values that you cling so tightly to. I leave you with a final thought from pop artist Debbie Gibson. Yes, I am going to quote Debbie Gibson here. From her song “Electric Youth” from her 1987 album of the same name:

We do what comes naturally
You see now, wait for the possibility
Don’t you see a strong resemblance to yourself?
Don’t you think what we say is important?
Whatever it may be, the fun is gonna start with me

Just a thought. Especially when you are considering how to mold the youth of tomorrow using your outdated generational norms. Remember, this is about choice…and choice is all we should ever have. Unlimited. Unvarnished. Available.

JOPO (Just one person’s opinion)

–Tommy /|\

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Originally published 17Dec2021

Edited for grammatical and spelling mistakes (I’m not perfect and never will be) 18Dec2021

Thinking About: I Have Hope

Every year, right around this time, I watch as angry and hurt Pagans climb to the top of the virtual fence-line we have and shout their obscenities at the Christian folk out there. Thirty-plus years folks…seen it every year. Nine Hells, I did it for the first ten or so years of my Pagan Path too. Many folks will think I am pointing a finger at them, but rest assured – if you feel that way, know that I am swinging that finger around to point at myself as well. I’m no more immune from throwing my hurt and anger at the more radical elements of the Christian faith while shaking my fist at them. There’s plenty of anger to fire at those, whose radical element would prefer me dead or injured for not following their Path. Besides that, anger is the easier emotion to reach for – so strong, so emotive, so easy to embrace.

Right around twenty-four years ago, I stepped into the wider culture of the Grateful Dead. I know, you’re looking at me cross-eyed – wondering where this is going. But it has a place in what I want to write about tonight. The counterculture of the Grateful Dead and the various “jam Bands” out there is well known. Well, its mostly known for all the weed smokers and the more nefarious drugs espoused within the devotees of the band. But, if you peel back the drugs and look deeper within the subculture contained deeper in, you will find a philosophy that is somewhat like the perspective of the Wiccan Rede. Its more of a philosophy of kindness and being helpful to others. That a community based on these attitudes is one that is strong, protective, and available to anyone that wishes to practice the precepts of kindness, caring, giving, and unconditionally love to others. It didn’t take me long to immerse myself within these thoughts and perspectives. It took even less time for me to encompass all of this as the core values of my Druidry. Yes, all because of the subculture of a band’s fans. The world certainly does work in mysterious methods.

With all of that now splayed out to be the primal focus, I now wheel back to what I started with – the anger and desire for retribution towards the Christian faith. Retribution for burning Witches at the stake. Retribution for those pressed to death in Salem. Retribution for the disgusting attacks on family units during the Satanic Panic. Retribution for those who lost their jobs because they refused to hide their personal beliefs. And all the anger that followed in the wake of each of those moments in time and history. Believe me, I understand the anger. I grok the rage that accompanies it. I comprehend the usage of this time of the year as a focal emphasis to bring home the point: we have a right to be who we are without retribution and fear.

What we don’t have a right to put into motion is to bring all the emotional attacks back to bear on the Christians. We don’t have a right to set and sow fear among the Christians. Sure, I get that people want to do these things – to get even. To let them feel an ounce of the terror that other Pagans have felt – as well as those who weren’t Pagans but were caught up in the terrorization because of a greed for property or a desire to hurt others because they are different. I understand all of that. But retribution will begat retribution – a terrible vicious cycle that grows with each attack on the other side. Each attack fueling the next moment of retribution. Each moment of retribution stoking the fires of anger and hate, destined to never stop until one side obliterates the other. All in the name of removing differences and destroying individuality. We see much the same in America’s political scene today, but that’s a parallel conversation for another time.

As in every aspect of my own personal opinion – there are those that will disagree with me. Some will even call me a traitor to the Pagan faiths. I’ve had liberal-minded say as much when I point out that the right-wing is moving on their convictions of what is right and wrong for this country – though I do believe some of the far right-wing folks might be seeing how damaging their posture has been. Not many, but there are a few out there. I’ve met them. I’ve talked with them. We’ve taken the time to exhange hugs and hand-shakes. They do exist.

I don’t agree with the Christian faith’s perspective of “baptism and a new shirt or death.” But I do believe the Christians that readily reach out with a hand, asking for there to be peace and understanding between Christians non-Christians alike. They don’t believe as I do, but they do believe in being caring, helpful, and loving to their fellow human beings – yes, even the non-Christians. Yet, even these Christians wind up being targets.

What we hear declared every year is that “there is a war on Christmas.” This is particularly amplified by right-wing media “infotainment” hosts. Mostly individuals who have no respect for those who have a different faith, a different perspective on how they interact with their environment and those who are their neighbors. Twenty-four years in the past, I got angry when all of this would take place. Now…I get sad instead. My ideal world is one where I can shake someone’s hand as we greet one another…regardless of our differences. I’ve always felt that a world filled with people who are kind to one another because it’s the right thing – not only because some disaster happened – is where I want to live. I know none of that is going to happen overnight – and most likely not within the short time I have left in this incarnation. But I have hope for some day to be that reality.

–Tommy /|\

Thinking About: Music is One of the Backdrops To My Daily Life

Another Sunday morning. Today is a clear blue sky, in contrast to yesterday’s somewhat cloudy day. Just a reminder how quickly the weather can make changes to the backdrop of each day. Especially now in these days of what feels like an accelerated Fall. The trees are quickly shedding their leaves, while the temperatures play a roller coaster ride of cold at night followed by unseasonable warm during the day. But that’s a normal chaotic weather pattern for Tejas at this time of the year. I recall Novembers in the past with snowfall of two to three inches (significant measurement for Tejas) and Yule temps close to the nineties (sometimes in the same calendar year).

Like most folks, I have lived elsewhere in my lifetime. Germany, England, Alabama, Louisiana, and a wide variety of other places that are small footnotes in my mind. Each had their own weather patterns. Each provided a unique experience within my life. Each have deep memories that are played against the backdrop of those chaotic weather patterns.

There are always two backdrops for my daily life – the weather and the music playing in the background. Daily observation of my surroundings provides my connection with the weather. Music, on the other hand, comes from my extensive collection of artists, typically plied through my (now ancient) Bose headphones.

Music is a constant and consistent passion for me. I adore excellent musicianship in whatever form it comes in. Though I do admit that I have never what I would consider to be quality musicianship within the rap genre. I consider that to be more of a personal taste thing than anything else though. When I was much younger I was enthralled with the raw stylings of the up-and-coming genre of thrash metal. The sound was raw, primal, strong, brash, and loud. I can easily recall the beginnings of Metallica, the earliest pieces from Mercyful Fate, the original EP from Slayer, the earliest effort of Exodus, Cirith Ungol, and so many others. Plus, there the bands that never made it big – Highway Chile, Dissident Beast, and many, many more. I remember how exciting it was to find an artist I had never heard and playing their recordings for the first time.

Eventually, I stumbled across the genre of “Progressive Rock” which encompassed artists such as Rush, The Shy, Eloy, Yes, Asia, and so many others. The focus was on the musicianship, which had me marveling at the abilities of Neil Peart, geddy Lee, Chris Squire, Alex Lifeson, Steve Howe, and so many others. As I noted before, I am always excited by the technical wizardry of so many musicians.

Eventually, over the years, I was exposed to artists that fit what some call “Pagan music.” Much of it is in the vein of the more modern 1990s singer/song-writer element, which encompasses areas of rock, folk, celtic, and other genres with a stronger emphasis on Pagan or Goddess themed lyrics. My snobbery on good musicianship continues to pull me in this area as well. From Wendy Rule’s ethereal voice to the excellent musicianship as group showcased by Spiral Dance to the great songs by Jim Faupel and the awesome tones of Kiva, along with the fun and playful measures of Barefoot Bran – there’s a lot to like for me to enjoy within this so-called genre.

Some Pagans I know look for artists that will help accentuate their public rituals. I grok what they are looking for and they why behind it, but none of that drives what I need from music. Music is the background of my daily life. Right now, for example, I am listening to Christian artist Amy Grant’s “Carry You” from a 1998 Christian artist compilation. I know there are folks that will look at that as blasphemy or as “not being a Pagan.” All I can do is shrug and keep typing. As I noted, I look for music that heightens and enhances my day. My library has thousands of songs from all areas of music. All of it is digital in format, so I can play it directly from my computer. In terms of size, I have approximately 395 gb of music. A large portion of that is audience recording of the Grateful Dead and various iterations of the band (The Dead, The Other Ones, Dead & Company, The jerry Garcia Band, Phil Lesh & Friends, The Mickey Hart Band, etc). I freely admit that I love the Grateful Dead’s music…it provides inspiration throughout my day. On top of that, I know that the Grateful Dead is not everyone’s cup of tea. So I rarely will espouse them as “the greatest music of all-time” – with the exception of what I listen to.

Music, for me, is that background that is always there. It’s the soundtrack of my daily life. There are memories tied up in the music I listen to. Some good, some awesome, some…not so much. I don’t utilize music, recorded or not, in my rituals. For me, it’s a touch of a distraction, but like I noted – I know people who do. It works for them. Just like I find no realistic value in rap music. I know those who do find value and entertainment in that genre. It works for them. It provides something with a strong purpose and calls to their soul – that’s what matters most. Not what I think about it. I listen to the music that calls to my soul, to the music that provides me with the extra push I need to get through writing something, to the music that adds an extra push to my daily routines, to the music that stirs my emotions. That may not be why you listen to music…and that’s perfectly find and absolutely all right. I can only provide why music is a driving force within my daily life. I can only posit what it might mean to others. And likely, I’d be dead wrong. Each person would need to explain what it means to them…and only if they desired to do so. There should never be judgment in our individual musical tastes, at least in my opinion. #TwoQuid

–Tommy /|\

Bad Poetry Thursday: Winter’s Gentle Touch (Along With Personal Thoughts)

Winter’s Gentle Touch

The colder air creeps in slowly
Moving from the North to the South
The beginnings of Winter have arrived
Arctic air taking small bites within the season

I recall Winters in Germany from my past
Snow drifts halfway up my driver’s door
Arriving over the length of a twelve-hour shift
Burying everything in a quiet blanket of white

The turn of the Wheel is the same every year
But the weather never truly cooperates
Warm temperatures one year, deep snow in another
Gentle reminders that each day is truly unique


Here in December, my thoughts always turn to the winters I have had in the past. December of 1993 provided a deep, heavy, and wet snow in Kaiserslautern, Germany. One afternoon, I left my apartment in Vogelweh Housing and went walking in the wooded area behind Kapaun Air Station. I followed the cleared area underneath the power lines that went through the woods into the rear area of the Air Station. The snow was eighteen inches deep. Not quite as deep in some places, and heavy snow drifts in others. Apparently the weather had warmed slightly, so there was also a deep, thick fog. A fog that reminded me of England. My footsteps sounded like an army tromping through the woods instead of a single individual. I could hear my breathing as I climbed the hill. Everything that I did just felt so intrusive to that tranquil peace.

When I reached the top of the hill, I found the walking path I always used in the warmer Summer days. Well, sort of. It was completely obliviated by its new white covering. But I could see the stone bench just in the distance. Once I arrived there, I pushed off the wet snow and sat down. Everything was so quiet. No bid sounds. No traffic sounds in the distance. A few moments later, the loudspeaker from the Air Station blared the retreat followed by the United States national anthem. The end of the military duty day. A moment where the entire base comes to a stop and renders proper courtesies to the flag. A solemn moment, but a moment that has pierced the shroud of calm, quiet, and peace on that evening.

I’m no longer in the military. I’ve been out of uniform a little more than three times the years that I was in uniform. I still seek the solitude of the outdoors from time to time. Most of the time, that takes place in the form of a walk through the neighborhood. Even in the so-called Texas winters, I can hear the birds calling out, and nearby traffic patterns announcing the drivers – typically in the form of deep bass pounding from drivers’ announcing the rap music that they are listening. Snow? Not always typical in Texas. The temperature in December can by anywhere between the fifties and the eighties. The colder weather doesn’t reach this far south in North America until late December or early January. Most Yule festivities include a much-needed glass of iced tea instead of a cup of hot chocolate or some hot tea.

“Winter’s Gentle Touch” is meant to reflect ever so slightly on those memories, while focusing on the memories being made in this exact moment. Each moment is different. Every moment is new and exciting. Much like each concert by the Grateful Dead (and now Dead & Company) is different from every other show they played. No song is played the same twice. There are always subtle differences. Those subtle differences make each concert a new experience. A moment to live in the here and now.

People often inquire as to how I approach my Druidry – well, this is it. Each day is a new experience. Even if I do the exact same things that I did yesterday. My actions, my motions, my words – all that can be exactly the same. But I cannot control the environment around me. There will always be those subtle differences that create a new experience. Different and unique as a fingerprint. Different and unique like the snowflakes I used to watch from my second-floor balcony in Vogel Housing in Kaiserslautern, Germany.

Winter is on its way here in Texas. The leaves are falling from the trees now. Soon, the northern winds will blow colder as the weather pattern shifts. Soon.

–Tommy /|\

Glacier National Park on a cool Summer’s morning

I’m Not a Counselor. I am a Human Being.

Do you have a few moments? I have an issue I need to talk about with someone. Why did I pick you? Because I trust your opinion.

I’ve never relished the role of being father confessor for others. I’m not a counselor. I’m not the kind of person I would seek out for advice. Maybe that’s because I know the conflicts that reside within myself that I never let out into the sunshine. Or even into the moon’s glow. Those inner demons that I constantly hold at bay with my staff and whatever courage I can muster at that moment. Those demons, my deepest concerns over my own thoughts, are things I have shared with a total of six people. That’s the reason that no one else factors that information into choosing me to be the individual that they pour their soul out on the ground by the campfire in the middle of the night. Not that I can be sure that anyone would disqualify me over those inner demons. But in my own mind, they certainly would if they knew.

The first time I ever served in the capacity of being that individual that would receive the trust and distinction of knowing the “dirty” secrets or be asked for how I would handle things, I was a Non-Commissioned Officer in the United States Air Force. I was expected to serve in this role by the individuals appointed over me in my chain-of-command. The junior airmen that I worked shift with were away from their parents for the first time in their lives. They were overseas in a foreign country. My position of authority that was bestowed upon me meant that I was the first line of assistance that they had. As my NCOIC (Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge) once told me, “…it’s a shitty job but its expected as part of the territory.” It was in this role that I learned the value of just listening.

I still get folks that came to me for advice. The assumption is that my thirty-plus years in Paganism has distilled some arcane knowledge of how to solve their issues and problems. How should they deal with a difficult High Priestess or High Priest in their coven? How do they connect with a God or Goddess? Can I help them find a way to tell their family that they are Pagan? Is Druidry or Wicca the better option for them? How can they stop thinking about suicide? Yeah. That question was a real shot to the gut.

I have learned to steel myself against whatever was about to come out of their mouths after the questions I started this post with. How did I answer the folks in the questions in the paragraph before this one? Well, I started each one off by noting that the answer was different for everyone, which the answer should be. Some of the answers – particularly on how to deal with a High Priestess, High Priest or their own families – I offered some generic, non-specific statements. Dealing with issues with others will always be dependent on the relationship between the individuals involved. I’m always reluctant to offer a suggestion as a “you should do this” kind of solution. As for connecting with Gods or Goddesses, I usually refer them to John Beckett’s blog Under the Ancient Oaks. John has a lot of good advice, as well as a stronger perspective on such points than I really do. Then there’s the suicide question.

I’ve been asked this question just once. I started the conversation off by asking why they felt that way. And then I just listened. The way I saw it, I needed to know a bit more before I started saying a single word. I always never took my attention away from them. No cell phone. No looking away into the distance. I sat there and listened to her talk. I held my hand out for her to hold. My eyes never left hers. I never let out a sigh during the time she talked. I offered no judgment. I also offered no solution until she had finished saying what she needed to say. At the end of the evening, I asked if she wanted me to stay the night. I would sleep on the sofa or the floor, whichever was more comfortable. She declined and I went home, promising to be back the next morning. I showed up with bagels and coffee. We talked more. This time, I added comments or questions for clarification. In the end, she decided that she needed to see a counselor. I offered to go with her to the first appointment and did once she accepted. At her appointment, I gave a very short explanation of why I was there to her counselor, and then stayed silent through that entire session. I never attended another session with her. Instead, I checked in with her from time to time, just to let her know I was still there, still concerned, and always available. That’s about the best I could do for her.

I reiterate, I am not a counselor. I’m not a father confessor. I am a friend. Concerned, worried, available when I am needed. I can’t solve a single issue that anyone goes through. That’s not my role. I am unqualified to be that individual. But I am qualified to be there when I am needed. That’s what being a friend is about.

I bring all this up because it was pointed out to me that the role of a Priest is to be a counselor. I’m not going to refute that point. Some Priests that I know fit that role very well. But not all of them. Definitely not me. A Priest doesn’t fulfill every role and concept that we have about them. But every single Priest that I have met does fulfill the role of being a human being.

–Tommy /|\

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