Howling Into the Wind: Whose Side Are You On?

“God was more on my side.” This morning on the news, I heard an individual who had been physically assaulted by another make that statement. I sat there and chuckled a bit. Here was an individual that believes that his idea of God was taking sides between himself and someone else. But as the weather guy droned on and on about his forecast of the weather – coupled with his constant apologizing and hedging over how forecast models are merely “trends” – I found myself thinking a bit more on the above statement.

So, I work with three different Gods. Coyote (sometimes), Crow (most often), and Abnoba (Who I have been working with more and more). Working with each of Them to handle what was asked of me was one thing. It never occurred to me to think of Them as taking my side in the world around me. Or do They? Should They? If They don’t, why won’t They?

I am never sure how others may feel about the Gods being involved in the lives of human beings within this existence. Some will view that as unwanted manipulation by the Gods. Others will see it as a loving action on the part of the Gods. Some will even see it as being “favored” by the Gods. Personally, I can not only see the validity of each perspective mentioned there, as well as the logic that can bring one to believe. For me, I have a different perspective. Yeah…go figure. I have a different view. 😊

I do believe that the Gods can and do intervene on the behalf of human beings that They work with. But not all the humans that work with Them. I don’t see the Gods as being perfect. I don’t see Them as being omnipotent either. They are however, beyond our comprehension. Just like I love all three of my cats, I do have my favorite. I intervene on her behalf when it becomes necessary to do so. But only when necessary. Yes, comparing the way I deal with my cats to the way the Gods deal with the humans that They work with is a horrible comparison. After all, I am not the God of my cats. I’m just the human that they own.

I cannot provide a single instance where Coyote, Crow or Abnoba have intervened on my behalf. Nor do I think that any of Them would do so. Most of my mistakes that I have made are utilized as lessons to be learned. Discernment and understanding are key elements of what each want from me. I won’t get that without making mistakes to provide a better perspective for me. I could even suppose that They set me up for failure at times just so I can learn and understand a perspective much better. Some of that has been and is painful, but I was never physically in danger or harmed. Lessons to be learned.

So, are They “on my side” when there are battles of any sort that I am involved in? I couldn’t really say with any level of certainty. I would love to say that it is true. That each of Them has my back and would intervene in my favor. That’s nice “Us v. Them” theory though. Unlike many Pagans and Christians that I encounter, I do not see a coming battle of Polytheism and Monotheism. Rather, I see human beings projecting their need for debate, discourse, and dislike for things that are different from their own perspectives onto the projector screen of their representative Deities. For me, I don’t see much difference between the perspectives, aside from Who – and how many – are being uplifted as “divine”. But are Coyote, Crow, and Abnoba on my side?

I suppose it’s a fair question of sorts. However, I do comprehend all of this in the same perspective of the relationship between myself and my three cats. Knowing that the Gods are not perfect, I would theorize that They also have their own favorite humans. However, I would further theorize that despite the concept of “favoritism” that could be applied, it does not diminish the individual relationship that They have with everyone that They interact with.

I am a firm believer that the relationship I have with the Gods – any God or Goddess – is unique to me and that Deity. Further, I believe that applies to the relationship that every individual has with their chosen Deity on their own Path as well. Knowing and believing that, I can openly say Coyote, Crow, and Abonba are on my side. They are on my side in a manner that works within the relationship we have together. I don’t expect my relationship with Them to be the same as the relationship that They have with other humans. I know that many Christians believe that the relationship that they have with their representative God is – and should be – the same between all of the Christians and God. Sorry, I’m not built that way.

Being open and honest, I cannot empirically prove anything that I am describing above. Nor do I care to do so. I know what I feel. I know what I believe. Considering the personal nature of Spirituality, I am not out to prove anything that I believe to anyone else. Nor am I a person to convert others to the way I connect to the world around me with my Spirituality. Forcing people to believe as I do is diametrically opposed to everything I believe in and hold as morally correct. If people believe differently than I do or worship differently than I do or connect with the Gods different than I do – believe it or not, I am thrilled for them. I know how special and wonderful that feeling can be – even if just from a general point-of-view.

Many folks will say that if the Gods do not intervene on my behalf, that those Gods are not with me. Or that my Gods are bowing before their all-powerful monotheistic God. Bully for them. I don’t subscribe to that thought. I would suppose that it depends on what you mean by the God(s) being “on your side.” I know my Gods are with me. Mine walk with me on my daily Path. Sometimes beside me. Sometimes on my shoulder, in the case of Crow. They are not with me to fight my battles for me, but to teach me ways to be a better human being. In return, I do Their works here in this world. It works for me. Apparently, it works for Them too.

Now with all that said…I need to go pick sides with Them for a game of Red Rover.

–Tommy

Thinking About: Are You Experienced?

I love talking to folks who are new to the Path of Paganism. Regardless of their age, I have always found it to be a wonderful experience to feel the excitement that they have for what they have (apparently) stumbled upon. Feeling all that energy that they churn up over their new first steps is some amazing stuff. I have always thought that it would be great to bottle that feeling up and sell it online. I would probably pass gates and Musk in valued monetary worth. LOL

I still remember my first steps in Paganism. How excited I felt about finding something that properly fit the way that I believed. Over time, I have realized that it does not always fit properly. Its not an air-tight fit, but then it never was meant to be one. In the beginning, there was a lot of confusion over what direction to pick. The lady that introduced me to Paganism handed me all kinds of books to read, but the first one she handed me is one I continue to run to over and over. The late-Margot Adler’s “Drawing Down the Moon” was my first steps into the wider world. The first time I read it, I realized that Paganism was a lot broader than I had realized.

Wiccans, Witches, Druids, Goddess worshippers… honestly, I was overwhelmed. My first time reading DDtM was like trying to drink from a fire hose that was attached to a high-pressure hydrant. There was a lot of information to take in, but I could only get small drops of it at a single time.

Now, I have written at some detailed length about my first steps on my own Pagan Path. My confusion, my exploration, my decisions…. all that is littered throughout the blog. However, I really have not written much about the next steps. My first five to six years on the Pagan Path were akin to trying to find your way through a forest during a dense fog. The real formation for the foundation of the pagan I have become came in the next four years.

Once I started to find my feelers through the world of Wicca, I started to realize that this was not the Path for me. No matter what Tradition I decided to study with, or whatever author I picked up – the emphasis on spell work was always a constant. For me, it did not take long for me to realize that spell work was not for me. At least not as a first-choice tactic towards solving problems or figuring out issues. For me, spells (and curses) are like nuclear weapons in the military. You keep it in your arsenal, but you try to find all kinds of solutions to keep from using it. Yes, I hear the groans and grumblings of those who disagree with that statement. Honestly? That is perfectly fine. That is the way those folks step towards such matters and issues. However, its not mine.

So, I set Wicca and Witchcraft into the rear-view mirror and started exploring elsewhere. Druidry, Ceremonial Magick, general Paganism… nothing seemed to fit. So, I struck out on my own. I decided to blaze my own trail through Paganism and develop my own way through Paganism. However, I kept studying other directions while I was doing this, and eventually stumbled across Druidry (again). This time, I had a different perspective. Seeing this with a new-ish set of eyes, I started to understand how I could work within the framework of Druidry, and still walk my own Path. Thus, here I am.

Now, that all worked for me. The chances are quite real that this won’t work for someone else. We’re all individuals on our personal Spiritual Paths. We all experience everything from a different perspective. There are similarities between everything, even Christianity and other Spiritual Paths. But each vantage point can only be occupied by a single individual at a single time. At least that’s my theory.

Confused yet? Yeah. That was (and still is) a constant feeling that I encountered along my own Path of Understanding. Typically, I step on the brakes, park my Spiritual beliefs at the side of the road, and get out a blanket and some food to sit and contemplate things. Most of the time, I will find a way to remove some of that confusion. Most of the time. Sometimes, I remain confused. Either way, I eventually pack things back up, get back in my Spirituality car and get back on the road.

Still confused? If so, that’s only a natural response. My imagery works for me, not necessarily for everyone else. However, much of where I am at now comes from a singular piece of advice that Gardnerian Wiccan in the US Army offered to me at a ritual I attended in a forested area near Kaiserslautern, Germany.

Your footsteps are yours alone. What you see is what is processed by your brain for you only. You can describe the feeling of the Path under your feet. You can describe what you see. Everyone will interpret what you say differently according to their own experiences and biases. Don’t be confused or angry when others don’t feel or experience the same way.

Ivy was kind enough to relate that perspective to me that night. What she told me resonated with me then and still does to this day. My only wish is that I knew that back in my first five to six years on my Pagan Path. But then, if I had known that, I would have had far different experiences on my own Spiritual Path – and who knows how different a Pagan I would be today.

When Pagans, particularly those fairly new to their own Pagan Path, hear that I have been on my Path for close to thirty-five years – well, its only natural to come and ask how I have walked my Path. Ivy’s statement is a good one to give, and I have done that on a few occasions. However, I have a larger tendency to just respond with “Be curious, be open-minded, and find Joy in your Path.” Sometimes, I get the feeling that wasn’t the answer that they might be looking for. Sometimes, I am even told just that. But I am not some Pagan guru that is sitting on top of a mountain waiting for students or seekers of information to find me. I’m a student and a seeker of information too. The only difference is that I happen to have been on this search/quest much longer. That doesn’t make me wiser, smarter, or better than anyone else.

The immortal Jimi Hendrix once wrote:

If you can just get your mind together
Then come on across to me
We’ll hold hands an’ then we’ll watch the sun rise from the bottom of the sea
But first
Are you experienced?
Have you ever been experienced?
Well, I have

“Are You Experienced?, Jimi Hendrix

The real question to ask basically boils down to what do you mean by “experienced”? Depending on how you explain that, well I have. That still doesn’t make me better than the person just taking their first steps on their own Pagan Path this morning.

–Tommy

Spirits of Ancestor – the Footfalls That Have Come Before

“There is a hole in your swing.”

Throughout the movie “Mr. Baseball” Tom Selleck’s character is constantly reminded of this. Jack Elliott, is a heralded power-hitter in Major League Baseball who finds himself at the back end of his career. He signs with a Japanese professional baseball club, where the flaw in his swing is shown to him by the manager of his team.

So, this is a blog about my approach to Paganism. I’m a known baseball fanatic. Am I now writing about baseball and adding it here in the blog? No. Not at all. If I was going to write on baseball, I would have started a blog for that. LOL But the above paragraph about the movie is a good starting point for what I am writing about today. Much like Jack Elliott, everyone has a hole in their Spiritual practice. A weak point that we all try not to address. I have two – divination and the work with my Spirits of Ancestors.

Working my way through divination is not the easiest thing for me to handle. Much of it, as it seems to me, comes from repetition. With my lack of desire to reach too far into the future or to try and find meaning in the world around me, that makes it even more difficult. However, I try my best. I work with a set of Tarot cards, and as my current place in time is showing me – I suck at interpreting things. Thus, I can only say that I dabble in it. Or if you prefer, stick my toe in every so often. Just to see what the temperature of the waters might be.

However, its my working with my Spirits of Ancestors that is even weaker. For me, its troublesome enough that I tend to back away from working with my DNA Ancestors very quickly. See, I am one of the few black sheep in my family. My DNA relations are all extremely conservative and tend to follow the more deeply entrenched aspects of the Republican party. This even goes for those members of my family that are no longer living. I am mostly treated as a “dumb” member of my family – mostly because I didn’t venerate President Reagan and his ideas or fall and prostrate myself before King Trump. With my ancestors who have passed, I do not mech well with their very hardcore Christian values. The few times I have tried to reach out to work with my Spirits of Ancestors has proven to be difficult and often more of a “spiritual spanking” for me because of the path I have chosen.

This is the “hole in my swing” when it comes to my Spirituality. I usually back away from issues like this, rather than trying to mend the fence, so to speak. There is not much mending that can take place without me going back to a religious perspective that does not mesh with who I am.

For a long time, I tried to ignore aspects of this in my Spirituality. I told myself that I didn’t need this part of what I was doing. After all, I could utilize whatever I needed within my daily practice. Except that I found that I was provided no Past to venerate within my practice. I had no shoulders that I stood upon to reach the heights where I am. I had no line of ancestors behind me that had helped propel me to where I am now – unless you counted the idea that my Ancestors and their beliefs had repelled me into the trajectory I was now in. But that is repudiation not veneration. Not a positive outlook.

One afternoon, I was listening to Damh the Bard’s music on my headphones. A song from his album “Sabbat” came on – “On the Shoulders of Giants”.

Romans came, a mighty army, to the shores of Ynys Mon,
I’ve heard it said, I’ve heard the story, the Druids have all gone.
But what stays in our hearts, remains in our memory, with story and with song,
And they have been here, all along.

Damh the Bard, “On the Shoulders of Giants”

This little snippet of lyrics served as a strong reminder that my Spirits of Ancestor do not have to be of a genetic origin. The Spirits of my Ancestors are those who have trod this path before me. The Ross Nichols of the world. All my teachers and High Priests and High Priestesses who have helped create the Path I currently utilize in my walk through the darkened woods of my own Spirituality. Yes, I constantly and continually walk off the Path to explore for myself. However, the Path I always come back to as a baseline was walked by others before me. They blazed the trail that has allowed me to reach this location, where I can jump off and explore. Going into the future, someone else will come to this location and find my footfalls that have carved my Path into the woods. They will follow that, until they reach the point where I went no further. Then they will strike out on their own and use my Path as their waypoint back. And others will find their trails, and so on. In the future, I will be among those counted as a “Spirit of Ancestor”. Just not yet, if I have anything to say about it. 😉

Now, my Spiritual daily practice still has a slight “hole in my swing.” My veneration of the Spirits of Ancestors does not include my DNA Ancestors. I acknowledge that they are there. I acknowledge that without them I would not exist. However, I do not need their sneers and disapproval of where I have gone. Rather, I look to the Druids and Pagans that have come before me. I look to them because this path would not be as well-marked as it is without them. I venerate them in my daily offerings and prayers because their travels in this Spiritual Path have provided me with the markers to go further off the trail. Without their footfalls, I would not be here. For that, I am forever grateful. I could never be the Pagan that I am today without them. I only hope I can return the favor to the generations that come after.

–Tommy

Photo by Anton Atanasov on Pexels.com

Just One Hill. There Are Still Mountains to Come.

“Only a Sith deals in absolutes.”

This is my favorite quote from any of the Star Wars movies. This singular quote also encompasses a large part of what and who I am. I am not one for holding to a good deal of absolutes to anything in my life or Spiritual Path. Over the past half-year, I have had a lot of time to contemplate aspects of my own Druidry that I held to as absolutes. Over that time, I altered a few approaches that I had, and discarded a few others that no longer really served what I needed on my Path. Now, I have made it to where I am. Standing on top of the hill, having climbed to this point. Ahead of me, I see the even taller, steeper mountain that remains on my Path. My Spiritual Path requires more work, more effort, and the rest of the time I have in my Life in this incarnation – and probably beyond that.

Malleable, But Not

Over the many years on my Spiritual Path, I have come to realize that my Spirituality is a malleable form. I can alter and shape it to my current needs. However, while I note that there are few absolutes in my understanding of the world around me; there are a few things that are solid and unchangeable. My belief in many Gods is one of those. I don’t have empirical proof of the Gods, aside from my own beliefs and experiences. In my early-to-mid-twenties, I carried a perspective where I had to defend what I knew against all comers. In my late twenties to my early forties, I realized that continually arguing over the reality of belief accomplished nothing except wasting time and energy. Now, in my mid-fifties, I have a better understanding of how my beliefs have evolved as I grew and changed – and will continue to do so going into my own future.

My concept of ritual is one example of the malleability of my connection to the world around me. When I first started down my Pagan path, I would read about various rituals that were in books by Scott Cunningham and Donald Michael Kraig. I would read about all the materials necessary, the preparation, and the mindset that would be required. Everything just HAD to be EXACTLY as a described. Later, I would realize that certain materials could be swapped with others. I would realize that one’s hand could be just as powerful (or even more so) than a wand of any sort. The color of the candle did not matter. Even further on, I would come to realize that intent mattered far more than the date/time that the ritual took place. The materials utilized were there to enhance the experience, not drive it. Only a few years ago, it dawned on me that there was no absolute in ritual – aside from personal intent.

Instructions Are Instructions

Yes, instructions are necessary for anything that one tries to do – unless you are creating something from scratch. In a manner of speaking, personal ritual is a lot like playing jazz music or making alterations to a recipe. However, before you even take a single step along the lines of riffing on your Paganism, you need to understand the basics far better than you may realize. To turn a ritual to your liking, you need to understand the format of what you are altering. I learned this lesson the hard way. I wanted to make changes to a particular ritual format that I had experienced a few times in a group setting. So, I made changes to parts of the ritual that I didn’t care that much about. What I wound up with was a complete mess that really did nothing for me. I had to strip away the changes and start again. I made the changes one after another. One change at a time wound up being helpful. I could sample various things and determine what worked and what didn’t. When I had finished, I had a personal ritual format that worked well for me. I had removed certain elements completely, altered/enhanced others to my liking, and added a few things that I had wanted. However, the full set of changes took a lot of work, a lot of sampling, and a lot of self-analysis. Not to mention tons of trial and error, and a metric ton of unsatisfying results. However, I wanted it – I worked at it – I developed it. In the end, the instructions of how to set up and conduct the ritual provided a basic framework to develop things from.

Rebuilds Are Not Always Necessary

Yes, I did strive to rebuild my Druidry into something that worked for me. In the beginning, the idea was to create something a bit more edgy and dark, which is not me whatsoever. What I wound up doing was stripping away overly romantic elements of what I have been taught within Druidry, while developing my own understanding of the connections I knew already existed. What I have left is a Druidry that is much easier for me to move forward with. A Druidry that resembles what I had before but removes a lot of the absolutes that I had inferred from the perspective of other Druids. I didn’t need Druidry to be from their viewpoint, I needed to develop it from my own viewpoint, my own understanding. What was important to them might not hold any importance to me whatsoever. I needed to shape things in my understanding and comprehension. A rebuild was not necessary though. What I wound up removing from my own Druidry was so miniscule that I could have – should have – just removed it without too much thought or pretense. However, in the end, I do believe that the process was cathartic for me. So, perhaps, in one perspective, it was necessary.

Crossing the finish line of that rebuilding process did bring me to the realization that my Druidry has never been about absolutes. I have very few lines that cannot be crossed in one fashion or another. There are always exceptions to the rules. Some call that being “wishy-washy” or will remark that this is “so Libra” of me. That I am unable to make a single decision. That I spend too much time keeping all my options open. Well, maybe. I am a quintessential Libra, or so I have been told. If that methodology or perspective is offensive to others or what have you… Well, so be it. I know what works for me. I have had enough time to live those experiences to understand that for myself. Plus, I would never say that this works for every single individual out there. Whoops, there is me seeing things from a malleable point of view. 😊

–Tommy

Howling Into the Wind: A Different Beltane Perspective

Yesterday, I was starting to come out of my self-imposed “burrow” mode from Beltane. I do this nearly every year, where I step away from social media and most of the people around me. For me, Beltane is an intensely private moment. I usually take this time to reflect on where I am concerning goals I laid out in October of the previous year. Seeing that most of what I had envisioned exploded in my face like a badly timed and poorly mixed chemistry experiment, This time of the tear has been about resetting all of that into something far more on course for the rest of this turn in the wheel.

Coming back into the miasma that has been the wider expanse of the internet, I ran across a re-posting of a blog post by Jason Mankey from the Patheos Pagan platform. The post was written back in 2019; however, many of its salient points are still relevant in today’s Pagan community. The basic point came down to how Beltane is represented by male and female coupling – ONLY. Personally, I would disagree with the “ONLY” part – unlike the Sith (May the Fourth be with you), I try very hard not to deal in absolutes. But the point of many examples of the overtly sexualized aspects of Beltane being strongly depicted as hetero aspects is a particularly strong one.

That leads me into a twin-forked perspective. First, for me, is the aspect that Beltane should only be represented by straight aspects of Paganism. The second, grates against one of the reasons that I prize Paganism over other aspects of Spiritual practice: that the only person that can tell you what is right and wrong within your own Spiritual practice is you. I have slammed the world constantly on the second perspective, so I will let that one set – for the time being. But I will dip my toe into this entire concept of sexual gender identity within ritual aspects of Paganism.

To preface things a bit – I am a straight, white male. I am a Pagan. I am a Druid. I am a Polytheist. I am a Libra – and have been told I am nearly the quintessential aspect of a Libra. All those labels and a tenner will get you a cup of coffee at the local Big-Box Coffee shop. In other words, none of those labels really mean much more, except to create some aspect of meta-tagging for those that need to categorize humans. The truest meta-tag I have for myself: I’m just me.

Within the Pagan community, we tend to pride ourselves on being accepting of others. Your gender identification, your hair color, how many eyes you have, how many fingers you have, your sexual preference, your education level, the kind of vehicle your drive, your socio-economic status, whatever other descriptive you can figure out – none of that matters within Paganism. Or does it?

Back when Pantheacon was running, I heard whispered conversations in the hallways about various rites that were “specified gender only”. Ok. Women’s Mysteries and Men’s Mysteries are certainly an aspect of Spirituality to one degree or another. But there were issues over how the trans-gender folks were to be identified. Should someone who was born male but now identifies as a female be denied entry to an event on Women’s Spirituality? My personal take has been if that is the gender you identify with – that’s where you should be. But what about those with fluid genders? Or those who do not identify with a gender at all? Going forward, I am not sure how to resolve such an issue, but considering that I would balk at a Men Only gathering – despite the fact that as a straight male, such an event would be right down my alley, so to speak – I am not entirely certain I would be speaking out of turn with my thoughts.

But then, as Mankey wrote in 2019, how do we approach a celebratory seasonal rite that is long ensconced in imagery of straight male/female coupling? Again, as a straight male, I am not sure I have any true answers – except to completely remove the imagery. That would be my original thought. But it does suggest the idea of creative solutions.

When I first started down my Pagan Path, Paganism was decidedly female in its outlook. The first ten years of being in various groups, I found that the ratio of women to men was not a one-to-one paradigm. It was closer to seven to one. In many respects this is still somewhat the case; although I would note that the eye-balled ratio that I noted at Pantheacon was closer to one-to-one. From a factual, statistical overlay, I would essentially be accused of spit-balling my ratios – and that would be correct. However, I do recall many rites where the female-to-male ratio was so lopsided that someone would be asked to portray a role that was not their chosen gender. For one rite, I was asked to portray the role of the Maiden, as an example. At first I was flustered and embarrassed over the fact that I was portraying the role of a female within the rite. Later, it was gently explained to me that the gender of the individual portraying the role was not completely important. What was important was the heart and passion one placed into the role during the rite. The role is about the energy portrayed, not about the gender portraying it.

Utilizing that aspect, I wonder about the need for specific roles within any given rite. Yes, I can hear the shouts of anger over a male portraying the role of a High Priestess. The Gods would certainly be angry with us over this, right? I would submit that the Gods would surely not give that much of a shit about such a gender change in the role. I would further submit that any emotion – even what I just ascribed in the previous sentence – is our projection of our own emotions on to the Gods.

So, let’s say that a yearly Beltane celebration has utilized a male/female aspect in its advertising. If they were to show two females kissing, or alternatively two males, as part of their advertising for next years, would you be offended? If the emphasis of their ritual was a same sex coupling to portray the love and passion between two lovers for Beltane, would you be offended? If their portrayal was of a love between more than two individuals together, would you be offended? Me? I certainly would not. Any of those scenarios are depictions of love between two consenting adults.

That brings up one final point. Children. A heavily sexualized aspect of Beltane should never be presented before under-age children. I remember, far too vividly, the accusations of child abuse and sexual molestation that were leveled against Pagan parents during the Satanic Panic. In this, it is far more prudent to follow social mores where minors are concerned. It is also the reason that we need to do better in the care of alcohol at gatherings as well. Better to be more conservative where minors are concerned than to provide unnecessary ammunition for those that would prefer the destruction of Spiritual Paths not the same as their own.

Yeah, this turned into the Beltane rant I was not going to write this year. But this has taken a far different turn than I really envisioned. I may be a straight male. However, I have many friends who are not the same as me. I don’t love the way that they do. But I love them. I also acknowledge that they have just as much right to live as freely as I do. Furthermore, while they do not live free, neither do I or anyone else. Altering the aspects of Beltane’s male/female coupling may sound like a small thing or even a petty aspect but trust me it’s not. Symbology is important. We all talk about the importance of allowing people to love who they love. Changing some of the symbology concerning Beltane sounds like a good, strong step in that direction. At least it does to me. I’m just one, single voice in the wider Pagan wilderness – howling into the wind.

–Tommy

Not Another Beltane Rant…No Not Really

Its Beltane time again. I’ve written so often about how the very public aspect of this point on the Wheel of the Year is one of my least favorite times of the year. Plus, I have explored my move away from basing my entire Spiritual Path on the Wheel of the Year, so it might be a better step to look at where things are these days. Maybe. 😊

As I get older, the timing of the Wheel of the Year means less and less to me, with the sole exception of Samhain. I use this point in the Wheel as a marker of time, so it’s a useful part of my Spiritual practice. But the rest of the Wheel, just does not carry the significance for me that it used to. Instead, my focus tends to be on the weather around me. I mark the seasons as the weather changes.

Yes, that is correct. I moved away from date-based applications to my Spirituality to event-based application. The shape of the moon carries some aspect to my daily practice, but not much. I am more of a Sun person than a Moon one. Thus, I look at what is taking place within my local environment to work certain aspects of my Spirituality.

For this time of year, I look to the budding of trees and flowers. For me, that signifies the beginnings of Spring. Since I grow no crops, I don’t aim anything towards that aspect. When the weather stays warm, and the trees and flowers are well into their new growth, I spend a few minutes in a self-created ritual in thanks for the new season. My idea of Beltane falls far away from the overly sexualized aspect that it has seemingly become within the wider Pagan community. Spring marks the advent of new beginnings for me.

I understand that much of what I am putting forth here flies in the face of what is taught in today’s contemporary Paganism. The Wheel of the year provides a map towards ritual aspects for many practitioners. I also grok that this works for so many folks out there. What I am not saying is that what I am doing is something that should be followed by ANY SINGLE Pagan out there – save for myself. Laying down “rules” and “laws” within a Spiritual structure that provides such open and fertile ground for exploration…well, that would be completely fucking stupid of me. I know what works in my own Spiritual practice. Telling others what to do would be completely inane for me to do.

Why would I do this? Stepping away from what can be claimed as “established” Pagan practice would mean that I am no longer Pagan, right? Well, if that’s what you think: awesome. For me, part of being a Pagan is finding out what works for you Spiritually and doing that, rather than staying within a strict, confined set of rules that do not let you grow Spiritually as an individual.

Usually, the next question is what would I do at a public event that follows the Wheel of the Year for its ritual? Well, that’s simple. I would follow what is being done. Attending that event, I would already have been aware of what was being done. If I was asked to handle a role in the ritual – and I have done this in the past – I would do exactly that. I would handle the role to the very best of my ability, putting every aspect of myself into that collective set of moments. When working in a public ritual setting, I am working the requested role for others – not just myself. I am adding to the collective experience. Pissing on that fire…in my opinion, is bad form. Plus, being honest here, if I attended a gathering of folks – I am there for the folks. Like anyone else, I do enjoy the company of like-minded people.

So, that handles the Beltane and Wheel of the Year stuff, but it adds in the complications of doing ritual with others when my personal and daily practices are different from theirs. Yes, I am a member of the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids. Yes, I have – and continue – to learn the materials from the Order. Yes, I strive to make it through the three grades. However, I do not utilize everything that I learn. Does that make me a bad Druid? Does it disqualify me as a Druid? Should I have my Druid license revoked? My answer to all three of those questions is “no.” I do have a question about what a Druid license is, and what public government facility I need to visit to obtain one. 😊 However, if my utilizing some aspects of what I learn from the Order’s material and not all of it would disqualify me from what would be considered a “Druid” – I would completely understand, and quietly walk away. I’d still consider myself a Druid though and find other ways and sources to learn from. Much like drinking water can be found at one well-spring, should I be forced away from that source, I can certainly find other places to quench my thirst.

After nearly thirty-five years on my Pagan path, one valuable lesson I have learned is that you get to decide what does and does not work for you. You decide what “rules” and what “laws” can apply to your own Spirituality. You get to make sense of the world around you. Or, to quote Pink Floyd:

While you were hanging yourself on someone else’s words
Dying to believe in what you heard
I was staring straight into the shining sun

Pink Floyd, “Coming Back to Life”

Certainly, there will be those that disagree with me. Some will be vehement in their perspective. Others will say that I am not a true “this” or “that”. Me? All I can do is shrug and answer that I must stay true to myself.

–Tommy

Moon photo, Hillsboro, Texas (4/26/2021)

Howling Into the Wind: The Draw of Paganism

Sitting around a campfire with other folks is a memory that I cherish every single time it occurs. The little jumping flames of the fire are always a relaxing aspect, as is the ability to look up into a star filled night. However, the real draw for me is the conversations. No topic every seems to be off-limits. From politics to sexuality to sports to spirituality to history, philosophy, and beyond; my experience has been that the late-night/early-morning camp-fire talks are the highlights of any outdoor gathering I have attended. One topic always seems to rise to the top, even at non-Pagan events that I have attended: How did you become a Pagan?

My story of stepping into Paganism has been told before, here on the blog, as well as at camp-fire discussions. I am always interested to hear the “how” of a person coming to Paganism, but the “why” sometimes never makes the discussion. That single aspect of those discussions always leads me to the question of “what was the draw to Paganism for you?”

I stepped on to my Pagan path a long-time back. However, during the first five years of that time, if you asked me what drew me to Paganism – I honestly would struggle for an answer. I stumbled across Paganism through discussions on the local Bulletin Board Systems in the Dallas/Fort Worth area while I was stationed at Carswell Air Force Base. I had just finished a short flirtation with the southern Baptists element of Christianity, which I found to be a distasteful moment in my search for something that had meaning for me. However, to be even more forthright, I was also searching for who I really was and what I was to be in my life, as well. I don’t have ties with very many folks from back in those days any longer, but those that I do remain in-touch with may describe me as a “lost puppy dog.”

A few years after my start on my path of Paganism, I was stationed overseas in Germany with the US Air Force. Here, I found myself completely alone as a Pagan. There were a few Pagan folk that I met, but I meshed with none of them. Seemingly, they all had aims towards being a “Big Name Pagan” within the military. I just wanted solid footing on my Path. I spent a lot of time taking long walks in the nearby forests – and Germany has a lot of gorgeous forests to walk through. I spent a lot of time thinking about what I read in various Pagan books that I would purchase through Circle Sanctuary’s mail-in store. My mind turned a lot of thoughts over in my mind. This was where I concluded that Wicca might not be appropriate for me. Nearly six years later, after another flirtation with Wicca, I knew it for a fact.

When I came back to the United States, ending my eight years in the United States Air Force, I understood a lot better why I was drawn towards the wider umbrella of Paganism. I could take elements of things that I had learned, put those into everyday practice for myself, and walk my Spiritual Path on my own. I had been taught in elementary and high school (Catholic parochial schools) that I need a Priest – an intercessory – to commune with God. Within Paganism, I needed no such middleman in my Spirituality. I alone was responsible for where I took my Spiritual path and what I did to further my growth.

However, that was not the only draw to Paganism for me. No, it wasn’t dancing around the fire with naked women. No, it wasn’t all the free booze that seemed to be shared in generous quantities. Don’t get me wrong, all that sounds nice. I have yet to experience the first one. The second? Well, I’m picky about what I drink, plus being a diabetic means that large quantities of alcohol are a no-no. So, I can’t say I have experienced the second to any grand aspect. No, another draw to Paganism is the people.

I am sure that there are creative folks in other belief systems out there, but Pagan folk are real outside-of-the-box thinkers. At least, in my experience. I have seen some real genius solutions to complicated issues, done with exquisite detail and amazing flair. In rituals, I have encountered some of the most gorgeous singing voices I have heard outside of Taylor Swift’s work (as an example), and some of the most amazing musicianship and storytelling. The creative nature of Pagans is just an amazing thing to behold. However, the personalities, the individual stories, the comradery, the fellowship, the way Pagans will reach out to help those in need – those big hearts are amazing to encounter.

Through all of that, I am also a realist. As I posted before, Paganism has its own in-house issues – just like any other Spiritual belief system or community of people does. While I have posted the rosier aspects of Paganism, at least according to me, there are just as many people that can refute what I have said with their own bad experiences. Just like a rose, when you pick a Path to walk, you will eventually find the thorns. So be prepared for that.

Most Pagans that I have encountered could care less about what Path you walk or the way you walk it. For every individual that takes slow, sensible steps on their Spiritual Path, there will be another running, skipping, and doing cartwheels in a minefield. Everyone has their own approach to things. Again, this is a massive appeal to paganism for me. Christianity, it seemed, had a Spiritual Path that was xeroxed and the copies handed out to every new adherent. Follow these rules. Walk at this speed, and this speed only. Don’t reach out and touch the trees. And most importantly, don’t question anything. This shit is holy writ. You just need to follow it. Sorry, I just cannot live that way.

Perhaps, I just have a rebellious attitude. Maybe, I just want to be “different.” Yeah. Maybe. For me, I just want to be myself. No limits. No forced changes. As Twisted Sister once intoned: “I am, I’m Me.” When I first came onto my Pagan Path, I couldn’t really articulate the reasoning behind its attractive nature to me. Now? I see the beauty of it everywhere. I understand the appeal. I’m allowed to be myself. To be who I am, not what someone else says I should be. I get to make my own choices in my Spirituality. I will make mistakes. I might even make the same mistakes more than once. However, I don’t need a Father Confessor to apology to my Gods on my behalf. I’m capable of doing that myself. My mistakes, my responsibility to own up to.

So, for fun, take a few moments and think back to when you first discovered and/or started down your own Spiritual Path? What drew you to this? Did you realize it right away? Keep it in the back of your mind. You might find yourself around a late-night campfire with others when the topic comes up. 😊

–Tommy

Howling Into the Wind: Philosophers, Mystics and Herds of Cats

How will the future view today? The Trump-era? The most pronounced period of political divide? Maybe, it might be the time frame when humanity lost its way. Maybe. I’m not sure. Maybe its because I am so deep in the trees that I cannot see the forest, to spin a phrase. Whatever it is, I can see both sides of the argument for this being equated as a new “Dark Ages”. However, let’s let the historians of the future make that determination.

During these times of COVID-19, I have learned a lot about myself. For the most part, I have lived through this period on my own. I have learned a lot about my ability to handle things on my own. I have also learned about what I can and cannot tolerate within my life (thank you Trump supporters – one of the very few things I can thank you for). I have also learned about when it is worth fighting and when it is more judicious to just walk away – at least for me.

Most of my life has been spent making sure that I deal with things in a way that I can handle. I don’t worry that much about the opinions or perspectives of others – save for a very small, select group of people that I consider to be family, none of which are related to me via DNA. Over fifty-five years in this incarnation, I have learned a lot about living life in a manner that I am happy with. More than once, I have been slapped with the label of “survivor” by many others, including my own Mental Health Provider.

Labels are not my thing, but being a survivor is an apt descriptive for me – even I freely admit that. I have been through enough disasters and hard times in my life. I have learned to make do with the barest of essentials. I can remember times where two of my three daily meals were Ramen. Back then, a pack of Ramen cost ten cents. I could make ten dollars stretch two weeks on that type of stipend. Any meal outside of that was a luxury. I survived that way on a job that paid slightly more than the minimum wage. Looking back, I would describe that as the “lean times”. Back then, I would describe that as “daily Life”.

Paganism is a fast-growing segment of the wider religious communities. However, its rapid growth des not place it anywhere near the stage of the “Big Five” (Christianity, Muslim, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism – according to many). Paganism remains a small minority. A loud, somewhat raucous minority, but still numerically small. However, numbers are not the true measure here. Looking into the Pagan community, we see more and more Pagans that are finding the touch of the Gods in their lives. We see more and more Pagans who are receiving the whispers of the Gods in their ears. Like many of those, I have claims laid upon me by two of the Gods I work with, as well as a third who continues to whisper in my ear. Here, close to thirty-five years on my Path within Paganism, I begin to wonder how future history will look at the Pagans of now?

A long while back, I wrote a post concerning what I had hoped Paganism would look like going into the future. Throwing all of that out the window, I wonder how history will look upon the Pagans of today in twenty years? Fifty years? Certainly, with the advent of blogging, podcasts, the growth of books on Pagan topics, future generations will have more information concerning Paganism at their fingertips than I did back in 1986. However, considering the wide diversity of information coupled with a lot of divergent and diametrically opposed perspectives, will future generations of Pagans see all of us as a wide range of exploring philosophers? Or will they view us like a giant, milling herd of cats – distracted by shiny objects at every glance? Or, perhaps, we may be viewed as wild-eyed mystics driven mad by our collective dabbling with the Gods and the worlds beyond tangible existence?

I find it quite interesting and mildly amusing that I am writing over the opinions of people that may not have been born yet. That I am potentially wringing my heads and wrinkling my forehead over the way that I will be portrayed by others I will likely never meet. Me. The person who worries very little about the opinions of others, save for four people who hold the distinction of “family” in my life. Me, the person who does not worry about whatever “legacy” others want to place around my neck for whatever reason. I sit here, wondering how history will judge not only the wider aspect of my own belief system, but also how it will judge this generational point in time.

I would suppose that it really doesn’t matter. Much like I shrug my shoulders over whatever “legacy” others place on me, I would suppose that many of us that are living through all of this will shrug our collective shoulders over whatever descriptive gets applied to this period of time, Pagans or otherwise. After all, those who lived through the period that provided us with the “Hippie” movement of the 1960s, will politely ignore the joking perspectives applied to their generation. My assumption would be that whatever terminology and perspective that gets applied in the future to this time frame of History will mean nothing to those of us that lived during this time.

In the excellent movie “Troy”, the following is uttered by Odysseus at the end:

” If they ever tell my story let them say that I walked with giants. Men rise and fall like the winter wheat, but these names will never die. Let them say I lived in the time of Hector, tamer of horses. Let them say I lived in the time of Achilles.

Odysseus, Troy (2004)

Who would be those legends that I could say I lived with during these times? Honestly, I have no idea. Nor do I care. If any words that I write winds up living on into the future, I can only hope that I would be characterized as one of many, many Pagans who started the revival of Paganism. That I lived in a time of Spiritual awakening where people stopped placing their faith in intercessors that would communicate to the Gods for them. That people living in a time of such deep political divide eventually found a way to locate common ground and live in relative harmony together – highlighting their commonalities, as well as respecting their differences.

That would be an ideal future for me. In the meantime, I live each day as it is presented to me. Some are good days. Some aren’t. Whatever I find, I do my best to survive, live, and thrive.

–Tommy

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Thinking About: “Get a Little Uncomfortable”. This is My Start

I am not much of a news watcher, especially after the way the news agencies have devolved from news platforms into opinion launching platforms. I always had bright light shining out of that darkness. That would be Brooke Baldwin. When Brooke took the anchor chair for the mid-to-late afternoon broadcast section on CNN, I was hooked. A pretty smile coupled with a “facts only” manner of presenting the news, she became my go-to option for the news. During these times of COVID, where I have basically lived within the house and rarely head outside, I always found comfort in watching her broadcast times. As CNN has devolved into the center-left version of MSNBC and Fox News, Brooke always held to her “just the facts” broadcast style. Brooke’s broadcasts wound up being my comfort food for the news. After nearly eleven years in her position, last week marked Brooke’s last on CNN. She wasn’t fired or let go. She resigned, leaving on her own terms. With her last three minutes on the air, she said goodbye, which you can watch here.

In that goodbye, Brooke makes the final comment that we need to get uncomfortable. Her challenge was aimed towards women rising to the challenge of being equals in the workplace – finding their collective voices, and not being afraid to speak up. I sat and thought through what Brooke had said and realized that her challenge was something I could incorporate into my own Spirituality going forward. Not just from a perspective of raising the voices of women throughout Paganism, but also raising our own voices on difficult topics. That it was beyond time to start having the uncomfortable discussions here on the blog – and elsewhere. So, with that in mind, a cup of coffee to one side of the laptop, a bag of mixed nuts on the other, and Pat Metheny playing on the Bluetooth speaker; I set out on that journey.

Within Paganism we have a lot of issues that we simply gloss over. There are a few people who have stepped out into the open to initiate the discussions. Some have been more successful than others. Me? I have stayed in the shadows. My movement towards such subjects has been tepid at best. My approach to Paganism has been that what I do within Paganism is my business. How others approach Paganism is theirs. That still applies. However, I do have some hard lines I just cannot cross. Some of what I will see through this exploration will come off as a bit judgmental. That’s not the point. Rather, in doing these types of explorations, I am trying to find where my own boundaries get drawn. In setting much of this out here on the blog, the idea is to stimulate conversation and thought. And not necessarily even conversation between me and someone else. But conversation. Some of what I will write over the long point of exploration will not be hard and fast boundaries for me either. I change and grow like anyone else does. My perspective can be altered on some topics.

So, I’m about five-hundred words in at this point. Where do I start? There are so many different directions to go. Well, let’s start off a little simple, at first. Acceptance of other beliefs.

Over thirty-plus years, I have watched many, many Pagans rail against Christianity. Some of it is rightful anger. Some of it comes across as a knee-jerk reaction to becoming a Pagan. You know. Paganism is right because I practice it. Christianity is wrong because they want to destroy all other faiths. This is a convenient “Us verses Them” dichotomy that plays out nearly everywhere in our lives. When the United States is in a war with another country, people of that country are evil. Those people are hell-bent on destroying the American way of life. That kind of rhetoric makes whipping up the winds of war very easy. Particularly when linked with Patriotism towards the country. I saw a lot of it when I was in Desert Shield/Storm. I see a lot of it in today’s Left/Right political dichotomy.

The paradigm of “Us versus Them” is an easy one to embrace. We have had paraded throughout our lives. Sports rivalries. Race issues. Politics. Nationalistic pride. There is nothing wrong with this perspective, so long as it is balanced against the perspective that the folks on the other side are human beings and deserve the same dignity and respect that we ask for. After all, if you are looking for dignity and respect, you must provide it just as much as you ask for it. Demand dignity and respect, but not provide it from those you demand it from…well, we have watched wars erupt over such differences.

We Pagans are no different from the Christians. We all breathe air the same way. We live our lives very similarly. We love others in much the same manner. We just disagree on our approach to Spirituality and the Divine. Christians cling to a particular passage in their Bible that states that Christians must convert others to the Christian faith. Their doctrine teaches that those that are not Christian will be sent to their idealized perspective of a “bad place” when their God calls them back to Heaven. To that degree it is hard to deal directly with the idea that Christians want to destroy all the other faiths. I can grok where others would see that. But not every Christian is that way. Certainly, the loud and aggressive ones are, but not all Christians are like that.

Over my time as a Pagan, I cannot count the number of times I have dealt with aggressive and loud Christians. You know, the kind that want to take their beliefs and shove those straight up your ass. As if forcing a stubborn, independent-minded individual such as myself will have positive results. However, I have seen the other side of all this as well. The rabid, foaming-at-the-mount, fundamentalist Pagan. The one that wants to shove the Burning Times down the throat of every Christian that they meet or hang it around their necks like a scarlet letter. If you go back to my very earliest days of being a Pagan, I was one of those. I demanded respect from those of other beliefs. My beliefs were just as valid as theirs. However, practitioners of my belief had to stay hidden because the Christians out there would set the police and the justice system on to us, like a pack of rapid dogs at the hunt. I still cringe inwardly when remembering that part of me.

Shouting my beliefs does not make those beliefs any more valid than if I quietly had my say, and then walked away. In fact, shouting my beliefs would likely be a major turn-off to anyone that I was trying to convey my message to. I know that I stop listening to those Christians who have a need to shout their beliefs at me or make physical threats to me. Or even threatening me with eternal damnation. All I wanted to do was find some common ground from which we could have a discussion, not a debate.

I have many friends within the Pagan community who have come out of abusive situations from within the Christian church. I am not going to out any one of these individuals by telling their stories. Besides, those are not my stories to tell. But they are my friends, and I will stand right next to them whenever they need me to be there. My support does not need to be loud and angry. My support needs to be gentle, kind, and take whatever form they need at that moment. They have a right to their anger towards their former faith. I do cringe when they start into their venting at what had been done to them. I feel their pain. I feel their anger. I feel their sorrow. I feel their sense of betrayal. Likewise, I have friends who have left Paganism because of the same issues. Rest assured, Paganism has much the same issues of abuse of authority as the Christians do. Much like the Christians, we have a lot of internal cleanup to do.

So, what do we do? How should we do it? When should we do it? Well, a lot of those answers are going to depend on you, and what you are willing/capable of doing. For me, the start of everything comes from an open, honest, and sometimes brutal discussion. How do we deal with the abuse of power within our communities? How do we handle those of other faiths that proselytize against us? How do we handle such issues as sexual abuse, pedophilia, and even illicit drug use within our communities? All sub-trails leading off from where I stand at this moment. All items that are likely to be dealt with in different ways by different people. Believe me, there are many more things to look at. This is only the springboard for me.

Now, am I trying to build some sort of rigid dogma for Paganism? Hardly. I only have control over what I do, think, and believe. I cannot, and categorically, will not do any of that for anyone else. I am, however, willing to talk, listen, and discuss issues. As I have said before, my preference for those discussions is around a fire, under a glorious starry night. In my experience, such a setting makes for ideal conversation periods over meaty topics such as these. Plus, the darkness allows us to hide our uncomfortable nature, circling back to Brooke’s original point.

I do offer one more piece of caution. Don’t get your feelings hurt when you find others who completely disagree with your perspective. Instead, tuck your feelings back a bit, and listen to their perspective. They may provide a piece of knowledge you might not have encountered, or a perspective you may have dismissed out of hand. That’s learning.

I understand the outrage over supposed Christian perspectives that can turn many Pagans from knowledge-seeking, fun-loving folks into rabid, angry individuals. However, I have come to realize that much of what is believed about Christian beliefs by many Pagans are broad-brushed strokes that are derived from much smaller groups within Christianity. Just like many Pagans are painted over with the broad-brushed strokes derived from Wicca. Perhaps, we might be better served to take a step back, and attempt to understand the perspective and motives of the Christians before we begin to condemn them outright. We might also try to remember that they are human beings too. They just happen to see things from a different perspective around the great bonfire that we call Spirituality.

Much of what I have written here comes from my heart. It also comes from thirty-plus years of scars provided to me by being a public, open Pagan. I don’t hide who I am or what I am. I am always open for a discussion about any aspect of those things. To be brutally honest, I am not engaged on topics of my Spirituality by others very often. Thus, my ability to discuss these openly with others is not always the best. Furthermore, I don’t study theology, so I am thoroughly confused by some of the terminology that grows from that area of academic study. I am not a theologian of any sort. I might be considered a Priest of some kind, or even an Elder because of the number of years I have been on this Spiritual Path. I’m just me. No different than anyone else. I have the same unanswered questions as many. I desire to explore the world around me and experience as much as I can before I shuffle off this mortal coil and on into whatever lies beyond. But above all, I prefer to find a way to co-exist on this planet with everyone. Even the hardcore Trump supporters. Because we are all people. And to understand one another, we really do need to find a way to discuss our differences, not debate the right or wrong about them. As Brooke said, we need to get uncomfortable.

–Tommy

Rebuild Completed. Moving On.

If you read through the blog over the last half-year or so, you will find various posts littering the topics with a starting title of ‘Rebuilding My Druidry.” Over that period, I have been taking my Druidry apart – bit by bit – and re-examining what was necessary and what was not. To be frank, it has not been an overly pleasant process, and at times it has not been especially helpful. All of this was done through the prompting of a need to make my Spirituality into something that conforms much closer to who I am. In essence, I was forcing my Spirituality to conform to me rather than the other way around. What I wound up with, initially, was a complete mess. Putting that all back together into something that was a touch more coherent took more time and effort than I had initially wanted to do. The experience: on the other hand, was quite a cathartic one. Some of the more important aspects that I found through the entire process were aspects of ritual, what being a Druid meant to me, how my Pagan and Polytheistic perspectives intersected with all of this.

Rebuilding Ritual

Ritual. One of my bigger sticking points with Druidry was the way rituals were presented as being set in stone. No deviation was expected. Impromptu workings were frowned upon. Moving away from aspects of the Wheel of the Year were looked as “not normal.” All of that rubbed me the wrong way. Every time I heard or read something akin to that perspective, my mind would hear this lyric:

Mama always told me not to look into the eyes of the sun
But mama, that’s where the fun is

Manfred Mann’s Earth Band, “Blinded by the Light”

About mid-way through my entire so-called “Rebuild”, I realized that ritual with others was different than rituals on my own. I am not part of a Grove. So, the only times I get into ritual with others are where groups of folks gather to do exactly that, such as OBOD’s Gulf Coast Gathering. Within a large group of people, my style of impromptu ritual would little significance (if any) with others. Thus, there was a need for cohesive ritual elements in such a setting. However, what I did on my own was truly my own business. Sort of like being a guitarist in a band versus noodling around on the guitar on your own. One needs a more formalized set of rules to make it work for everyone…the other is for your own reasons.

Intersection of Paganism and Polytheism

There will be folks who are not going to see or feel a need to explore the idea of their personal Spirituality intersecting Paganism or Polytheism. For them, there is a natural synthesis of these for their own needs. For me, on the other hand, I needed to find the congruence of the three, and explore it a bit more. For me, my Spirituality is more deeply rooted in how I work through my daily Path. The way the ground feels beneath my feet. The warmth of the sun on my face on a morning like this one. Or the dampness of the rain falling from the sky, as the meteorologists are promising for later in this week.

My Paganism and Polytheism are reaching out beyond those perspectives. The Gods, as I have come to believe Them to be, are separate entities that can be experienced and communicated with. Certainly, it takes a little effort to do so, and sometimes the Gods you are trying to work with won’t talk back, but They are there regardless. I have three that I work with, but rarely do I hear from Them all the time.

Add to this, I have no desire to change anyone’s mind if they believe to the contrary. I am not on my Path to convince one single fucking individual that what I believe is correct. I have no desire to debate things like theology and religion with a single soul. Mine is not the path of a Shepherd or a Gatherer of Souls. My Path is to be there to discuss with others. Need someone to talk with about stuff? I’m your guy. Let’s sit out by a fire late at night and discuss whatever it is – under the stars.

Being a Druid

One of the most important things that came from the process was wrangling through the idea of what being a Druid means to me. Being a Druid, to me, means being open to the idea of discussions that travel from one subject to another. Our discussion isn’t going to solve the world. Our discussion isn’t going to make major changes in the way any of us relates to the world around us. Only we, as individuals, can do that for ourselves. However, our discussions can lead us to a momentary point of enlightenment. Maybe not for all of us. Maybe for only one of us. Perhaps, we can solve the Gordian Knot that is present in the moment. Not a debate, but a discussion. In a debate, there is an implied winner and loser. In a discussion, an exchange of viewpoints is made. No winners. No losers. Perspectives get exchanged. Some can be accepted. Some can be rejected.

For me, being a Druid is more like being an available counselor. Being available when someone needs to bend my ear (or eye in the case of electronic text messages). I might not be able to solve your problem. I might not be the appropriate starting point for your needs. But I can get you somewhere that might be.

Forget the terms such as “Priest” or “Elder”. I have been on my Pagan Path for thirty-plus years. Big whoop. I have experience, thanks to a lot of years on my Path. That does not make me any better than an individual that is six days on theirs. The only difference is that I have walked this Path long enough to have to stop from time to time to wipe the dog shit off my shoes. Thirty-plus years on my Path doesn’t make me amazing. All it means is that I am stubborn enough to be persistent.

Rebuild Complete

So, my rebuild of my Druidry is finished. In the past, I compared this to rebuilding an engine. The reality is that this was more like buying a new set of tires for your car. While I worked on getting a new set of tires on to my Druidry, I also took the time to remove all the accumulated trash from inside the vehicle. All of that, plus the new air freshener hanging from my rear-view mirror, provides me with new steps towards where I am going. Yes, I managed to remove some pieces that really didn’t fit in, such as my overly romantic view of being a Druid meant that I needed to solve other people’s problems. Other people need to solve their problems on their own. I can listen, provide opinions, supply my own perspective – but in the end, they must do the work themselves. Speaking of work, its long past time that I got back on to my Ovate grade materials.

Just one perspective.

–T /|\

Howling Into the Wind: (The Return of) The Satanic Panic

The 1980s. My late-teens and early twenties are encompassed in the decade of decadence. The rise of New Wave music. The rise of what is termed today as “Hair Metal.” The wild parties. The generational excess of wildly spending money and extending individual credit to horrible levels. There is a lot of things that I remember about the 1980s. Senior parties in high school. The creative endeavors of so many of my friends. Discovering the wider world of Paganism and my first steps into a way of connecting and experiencing the world around me. I graduated from high school in 1984, enlisted in the United States Air Force in early 1986, and stumbled across Paganism later that year. At the end of that year, I found myself embroiled in the Satanic Panic that I had been so blissfully unaware of.

Texas was a particularly harsh environment to be in during the Satanic Panic. I had heard rumors of Social Services tearing children away from families over the flimsiest pretenses of “Satanism.” In late 1988, I had friends who experienced firsthand this action. Police departments were inundated with reports from neighbors reporting on families in their neighborhood. The military was no different. I had assumed that the military would be far more open and accepting of all beliefs. I was wrong.

I worked in the data processing facility on Carswell Air Force Base. I typically worked on the weekends and during the evenings on weekdays. My weekends were typically twelve-hour shifts, which left a lot of time to read. I was starting my initial steps of exploration into Paganism. I brought a lot of Pagan books on to the shift with me, which I would read. Some examples – “Drawing Down the Moon” by Margot Adler, “The Spiral Dance” by Starhawk, “Witchcraft From the Inside” by Raymond Buckland, and “Witchcraft Today” by Gerald Gardner – among others. My supervisor, at that time, was a staunch Catholic, did not approve and asked that I be reassigned to another shift. This resulted in my being called before my section chief, where I had to defend my own beliefs. My open defiance to a direct order to “be a Christian” resulted in me being sent to the Base Chaplain for counseling.

The Base Chaplain did his homework before I arrived. I was informed that my beliefs were in accordance to the “Religious Requirements and Practices of Certain Selected Groups: A Handbook for Chaplains“, and that my section chief would be informed to back off me. I was reassigned to another shift, where the other four members were all self-professed Evangelical preachers in their off-duty time. My time on the shift was not very easy. However, my off-duty time was about to change as well.

On an early Monday morning, I would guess it was around 4am, my dorm room door was unlocked and two Security Police officers, along with a Fort Worth police officer entered the room. I was asked to get dressed and to come with them. I did so and was led to a Fort Worth squad car at the front gate. I was asked to sit in the front passenger seat. I was then driven out to a pasture in the north part of the city limits, where a cow had been killed. Apparently its throat had been slit, and then its internal organs had been laid out neatly on a white sheet. After I had thrown up, I was asked about the significance of what I was seeing. I responded that I did not know, but I offered to do some research to help the officers determine what had happened. This started a relationship between myself and the police department that would continue until I was deployed overseas.

Most of what I dealt with was graffiti on or near churches and synagogues. Sometimes, I would be brought in to explain belief systems to lawyers investigating potential “Satanic ritual abuse.” I detested being called an “expert” (and still do). From 1988 to 1990, I got called on for a LOT of things. When I returned to the States from Europe, the entire Satanic Panic that had occurred in the 1980s had apparently died down. With Cornerstone magazine debunking the stories of Mike Warnke and Lauren Stratford – among many others – the hoppy waters I remember had seemingly been calmed.

This weekend, I was provided with a Vox article entitled “Why Satanic Panic Never Really Ended”, which details how much of the debunked theories of the Satanic Panic of the 1980s have lived on within the QAnon movement and elsewhere. Reading through the article, I was astonished to realize that I had read several of the features stories but had ignored them as a symptom from the days of the Satanic Panic. Most infamous among these is the horrifically described incidents of the so-called Pizzgate. Another story, which I had not heard, details a wide, vast Satanic pedophilia ring of Democrats, celebrities and world leaders that made its rounds within 4chan. This exact same theory was originally floated by Mike Warnke in his utterly false depictions of himself as a “major player” in Satanism, again completely debunked by the Christian magazine Cornerstone. By the way, if you are looking for the origins of QAnon, it comes from the Pizzagate story. The original poster that floated this retread rumor was only known as “Q”.

I don’t normally discuss politics openly within the blog. I believe what I believe. I understand how I want my government to work. I have no desire to change anyone’s opinion when it comes to how they believe. However, I know the slippery slope of “Satanic Panic”. I remember the beginnings. I remember the rumors that were floated about people in the community. I saw how these rumors could easily destroy families with the only the flimsiest of “evidence.” I know, firsthand, the terror one can feel that every single individual that they encounter may want to destroy their lives – simply because we believe differently from them. That is not a world I care to live in. That is a worldview that I will fight against to my dying breath.

Everyone has a right to their beliefs. Most definitely. I hold that to be a fundamental right to existing. However, when your beliefs deny that right to others, you are in the wrong. Yes, I am talking about the rights of Pagans to exist and believe as they should. However, I am also talking about the rights of Christians, Muslims, Atheists, Agnostics, and others as well. We can, and should, find a way to co-exist together. We don’t have to agree with one another. However, we should respect one another. Yes, that even goes for those on a Satanic Path. Because to be completely honest, they are nothing close to what the rumors of the Satanic Panic made them out to be.

My fear from all of this is simple. I lived through one very overt Satanic Panic. I have no desire to live through another. Nor do I want to see a Crusade made against those who disagree with me. I just want the freedom to believe as I wish, harming no others along my Path. I doubt that any of us lived through the times of the Inquisition. However, we do have history to show us the errors compounded on fervor and zeal that led to those moments. The same holds true for the so-called Crusades. The Crusades and the Inquisition were fueled by rumors, vilifying those that were supposedly against “us.” The opposition is constantly and continually portrayed as “evil”, “depraved”, “warped”, or “out of touch”. They are just as human as we are. They just believe differently.

Today, we see those who choose different ways of living being cast into the shadows of “them”. Members of LGBTQ+ communities fear for their very lives because of the zealotry of those that don’t agree with their way of living. Fuck, we did the same thing to the First Nations people here in America. We did the same thing to African Americans when they were brought here as slaves. We did the same thing to Asian Americans and individuals of Germanic heritage during World War II. Its not just the Satanic Panic that got us here. We have a history of rejecting those who are different than us. And in that rejection, we choose the most extreme measures to showcase our rejection and discomfort, without a second thought to the fact that we are doing these things to other human beings. Absolutely ridiculous, in my opinion. Quoting from Depeche Mode…

So, we’re different colours and we’re different creeds
And different people have different needs
It’s obvious you hate me though I’ve done nothing wrong
I’ve never even met you, so what could I have done?

I can’t understand
What makes a man
Hate another man
Help me understand

Depeche Mode, “People Are People”

So, yes. I am repulsed that the Satanic Panic and all its debunked theories is still alive and well, living in bliss with the QAnon crowd. But thinking on it, I cannot say that I am fully surprised either. We, humans, seem to have a major fetish for hating one another. We seem to be drawn to the idea that we must eradicate that which is different before it “infects” us. Yet, we cannot seem to understand that a wide diversity of views provides a broader, more in-depth, brighter perspective than a single, forced, monotone one would. Go figure that.

–T /|\

Photo by Lucas Pezeta on Pexels.com

Book of Shadows? Personal Journal? Does It Matter?

There are days, such as today, that I get stumped for what to write. In the past, I have taken two different routes towards solving this – I either just write off the top of my head or find an old post to rewrite in some fashion. Honestly, the first method just sucks. The post tends to come off as a rambly piece of work. The second doesn’t do much better, particularly when my perspective hasn’t changed much. So, I am about to spend part of the morning wrestling internally with what to do or what to approach. Welcome to my writing process. LOL

So, I went and peeked in the Email box, and found a question that I believe would be interesting (thanks A!). One’s Book of Shadows. Do I have one? No. Not by that name. Or even by that conceptual purpose. But first, let’s dig into what a Book of Shadows seems to be in a traditional sense.

Going off the Wikipedia page (I know – not a terribly great source of information, but a decent starting place for information, in my opinion):

A Book of Shadows is a book containing religious text and instructions for magical rituals found within the Neopagan religion of Wicca, and in many pagan practices.

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

Disregarding some of the grammatic descriptives, essentially, a Book of Shadows seems to be a repository of instruction, outlined ritual formats, and other useful information for the individual keeping such a tome. What gets kept in it? Well, from what I have come to understand, information that is important to the individual creating and keeping it. Ritual outlines, spells, notes on what does or doesn’t work in one’s Spiritual practice, copied quotations that have meaning to the individual…maybe even recipes. That’s from what I have come to understand.

When I was starting out in Wicca, I was encouraged to keep my own Book of Shadows by my teachers. I didn’t. Well I did at first. But it seemed an exercise in futility to me. Things that I added did not have the same meaning to me months later. Plus, any quotations I wrote down came from books that I already had on my shelf. When I left Fort Worth, Texas for Germany (thank you, United States Air Force), I completely abandoned the practice.

These days, I do keep something somewhat close to the concept of a Book of Shadows. However, I call it a Personal Journal. I don’t keep it in a paper format either. At one time I had it saved directly on my computer as an ever-growing Word document. However, I realized – via my Disaster Recovery education – that this was sheer folly. Magnetic hard drives do fail. So, I shopped around and settled on a cloud-based solution in EverNote. I have about four years’ worth of entries located here. I have only shared access into these files with one person, for a short period of time, and even then only with a certain section of what I wrote.

So, what do I write in there? Well, I work on blog entries there. I write synopsis of my day. I even have notes concerning my Bardic and Ovate grade work there. I keep notes concerning rituals that I participate in, and on unusual moments that occur in some of my daily devotions. In a way, you can say that my full life is in there.

Why a cloud-based solution? Well, I can access it from my computer, my laptop, my iPad, and even my phone. I can also access it from any computer I may have available to me. I just need to enter my userid and password – and then I am in and able to read or write. For me, this is very handy. However, I do realize that there are those folks who prefer the handwritten aspect over the computer. I have always believed that to be completely awesome. Everyone has different tastes as to what they prefer.

So, what information do I want to keep in my version of a Book of Shadows? How do I determine what is or is not important? What if the stuff that I want is vastly different from what others want? Who is doing things the right way?

Let’s start off with the who is doing it right and wrong argument. I absolutely loathe the “this or that” binary argument. What works right for one person may not necessarily work for someone else. What I consider to be “valuable” information might be considered as “trite” and “useless” information by someone else. Just as I dislike referring to my journal as a “Book of Shadows”, someone else may find that term to be useful and appropriate for themselves. Neither of us has a complete hold on the absolute truth. But we do know what works right for ourselves. Thus, let’s jettison this entire binary argument that things are either this or that. There is plenty of room in-between and beyond for a lot of other perspectives.

This holds true for what information goes into your Book of Shadows, Personal Journal or whatever you want to call it. No one can tell you what is important to you, other than yourself. What you record in those entries is completely up to you, no one else. Unless you want to give them the permission to dictate that to you. But that’s a piece of discourse for another time. The information in those entries, scribbled on pages or entered in a digital format, is what is important to you. Simple as that.

What do I consider as important information? Well, for me, that depends on the entry being made. Sometimes, its just a matter of documenting what had happened. Other times, I go into greater detail of how things happened, and my feelings during all of it. Many times, for me, its just a documentation of the day or the moment. However, I do have ritual frameworks outlined in some entries, a broad handful of poems that I have written, and a pair of super-shitty short stories I have tried my hand at. For me, this is what makes this more of a Personal Journal for me than a Book of Shadows. Even though, much of what I have in those entries does fall into the inane definition that I outlined from Wikipedia.

The truth of the matter is that your Book of Shadows will be whatever you want it to be. You are the one putting the information into the entries. You are determining what is important to add or not. You might wish to separate your notes about daily activities from your Book of Shadows. To be frank, I do exactly this inside of EverNote, as each type of entry has its own folder. I consider these to be more chapters than separate compendiums. Again, its what works for me. You need to do what works for you. Whatever that winds up being.

If you are on the fence about doing something like this…writing things down. Give it a try for a month. Then go back and read what you have written. Determine if it is something that works for you or not. Contrary to what some folks may believe, not every Pagan has a Book of Shadows or gets into journaling. For me, it is a worthwhile amount of time spent in my day. But I am not going to speak for everyone. That would be foolish of me.

In the end, a Book of Shadows? A Personal Journal? Some other descriptive? In my mind, it really doesn’t matter, so long as what you put in it has meaning and significance for you. That’s just my two quid.

–T /|\

(The Return of) Bad Poetry Thursday: Moving Forward

Walking through the forest
Deeper than before
Darker than I imagined
An anticipated adventure and journey

Stepping carefully and cautiously
Worrying of the footfall’s placement
What lies ahead – completely unknown
Pondering what could be ahead

Feelings of fear and excitement
Feed each step through the trees
Branches clawing unseen in the dark
Raking skin and catching clothing

I hear Her voice somewhere ahead
A soft whisper beckoning me on
Deeper into the darkened forest
An unknown where I now belong
3/31/2017

I wrote this four years ago. I may have posted it on the blog before. However, this showed up as a memory on Facebook yesterday. This serves as a reminder that every step in the darker portion of the forest is not always easy to take. As I look over the last four years, I see so many unexpected twists and turns that have occurred in my life. None of them I ever expected. A few turned out far different than I ever imagined would happen. However, each – in its own way – has provided me with experiences, emotions, and lessons that have helped to shape the Path I am on today. What lies ahead? I really have no idea, but the only way to find out is to keep moving ahead. 😊

Rebuilding My Druidry – Looking Back to the Beginning

Over the past few months, I have fleeting mentioned that I am rebuilding my approach to Druidry. A few posts ago, I went into a bit stronger detail with a post titled “Rebuilding My Druidry: Ritual” where I discussed my own approach to ritual in accordance to the Wheel of the Year. I had a few compliments passed on to me on what I had written. A few mentioned that I had expressed how they also approached their own Spirituality within their own Spirituality. Others disagreed but noted that it was important to see different approaches, particularly for those who are new to Paganism. After all, the more you read, understand, and experience – it only stands to reason that your own approach becomes much more informed.

In that vein, I will try my best to take one post a week and do some open exploration of my own approach to various topics as it unfolds in my own rebuild of my Druidry. For today, I will take some steps backwards and start from the beginning of this process.

I have been on a Pagan Path for close to thirty-five years now. Much of my early years were spent trying to swim within the pool of Wicca. The fitting between myself and the Wiccans I encountered was never a good one. Much of what I was being taught fell along the lines of strict hierarchies, none of which I believed were useful or helpful. I have never been shy about expressing my opinion on things. Looking back, it would have been better to just keep my mouth shut and move along. However, I was a very different Pagan when I was younger.

I didn’t come to Druidry until sometime in the early to mid-2000s. While the fit has never been completely tight or right – it is the closest thing I have found to what I believe. The framework provided by the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids (OBOD) has enough flexibility for me to find ways to make this Path my own. However, I didn’t realize that until shortly after I completed my Bardic grade, which took me nearly seven years. Thus, I had swallowed much of the symbology behind what a Druid “should” be, without critically examining what had presented. Those of you that have come out of families that were strong in the Southern Baptist faith will understand this. You accept what is taught and find ways to contort yourself around perspectives that don’t necessarily fit directly to you. Blind obedience has never really sat well with me.

In the past few years, I have loosened up the compartmentalization that I have had in my personal life, allowing my Druidry to flow easier into my life. More than once, aspects of my Druidry clashed with approaches that I used in secular (Gods I hate that term) life – some of which put me in awkward and even dangerous situations. This has caused me to tear down two matrices that I have constructed in my life – my own personal approach to daily existence, and my Druidry.

Because these two matrices were originally constructed to work independently of one another, when I let down the barriers between them, conflicts started to arise in my everyday life, and even within my own personality. To make the two work together meant pulling everything down, and then rebuilding from the pieces of both, while examining what was necessary, removing what wasn’t, and finding ways to combine those that were in diametrical opposition to one another.

Probably the most difficult part of all of this is bringing myself to understand that however I do this rebuild, whatever it winds up looking like – I am not doing this to please others. I am doing this to make my everyday approach to life map easier to my Spirituality without removing too much of the non-Spiritual perspectives that work for me. In other words, I am a Druid, but that does not negate who I am. I am not a slave to my beliefs. My beliefs are what help me connect to the world around me, and my beliefs should be helpful in my own approach to everyday things such as decision-making, and in the usage of my own emotional intelligence.

My first step was to remove some of the over-romanticized perspective of what Druidry is. I am not Gandalf the Grey or Gandalf the White. I am not Getafix. I am not whatever popular perspective of Merlin that is shown to us in the various renditions of the tales of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. I am me. I am not a Priest to the masses. I am not some individual who is strong with some arcane power that others just cannot comprehend without the training that I have. I really am just me. I am a Druid. As a Druid, I am constantly learning. I am constantly experiencing. What I learn and experience is different from everyone else, including the people that stand right next to me. I am still searching for what type of Druid I might be – if any. To me, archetypes are like labels – they’re useful for sorting, but completely bullocks in being useful beyond that. If you read through the blog, you will find where I struggle with labels such as “Priest”, “Elder”, “Teacher”, and even “Mentor.” I might fulfill some aspect of all of these – and likely even more – but in the end, I am still myself. So, the first step was to rebuild what I felt was a Druid.

At this point, I am still trying to formulate a complete answer to that. I find myself constantly falling into the asinine “Are You Pagan Enough” tripe, when trying to work up an idea of what a Druid is. So, I have decided to not worry about the fallacy of trying to find a definition for the word. I know where my footsteps are on my Path. Its not for me to judge whether someone else’s footsteps are “worth enough” to hold a similar descriptive to mine. In fact, given that I shamelessly advocate for others to find value and worthiness in their own footsteps, it would be hypocritical of me to provide any such judgment. Rather, I find it more useful to encourage others to continue to seek their direction, to continue to see worth in what they are doing, and to fail. Failing is an experience that teaches us about our efforts. I’ll write more on this in the next blog post for Tuesday.

This rebuilding of my Druidry is not going to be complete if I focus on it entirely. I also must focus on my own self as well. I have made no secret that I have been working with a mental health counselor. One of the bigger areas that we have worked on is a deeply rooted aspect of “Imposter Syndrome”. This has shot most of my personal confidence and has been a major cog in my constant second-guessing myself on various aspects of my life. This is a slow road to change, but a very necessary one.

After I wrote the “Rebuilding My Druidry: Ritual” post, I had a few folks tell me that they didn’t agree with my approach. I can grok that. In fact, I would say that they are completely right. My approach is not the right thing to do – for them. They know what works for them, and they realize that this won’t work for them. I am not them. They are not me. We are Pagans, but we are also individuals. No one has told me that I am completely wrong in what I am doing, and I am thankful for that. I dislike fundamentalist Christians for their lack of vision that the world around them is not the same as they are – and that the world is better off for those differences. I dislike fundamentalist Pagans even more. Everyone should, in my opinion, have the freedom to explore their own approach to the Divine. If they make mistakes, if they fail – they will learn from those experiences and adapt their beliefs and practices accordingly. While I can warn them about my own experiences in those areas, its is also better for me to be there when they need someone to hold them and listen to their laments over those experiences. No “I told you so” moments. Just understanding, and a steady shoulder for them to lean on or cry into. As the mem says: “I’m not here to compete with you. I hope we all make it.”

Rebuilding things is not the easiest task to accomplish. For me, it is necessary. I cannot live my life where aspects of myself are constantly in conflict with one another. This process is not quick nor is it easy. I am relearning the idea of personal patience. Plus, I am realizing that some of my life choices during this time were not healthy ones. But those were made. These are part of my Past now. A past that informs my Present and has a part in shaping my Future – whatever that might look like. Sure, after thirty-five some-odd years on a Pagan Path, at the ripe age of fifty-five (fifty-six this year), doing a rebuild like this may seem strange to handle. Why not just let it stay the way it is, relax and enjoy the latter part of my Life? That sounds awesome, but it is not me. I am still learning. I am still experiencing. Rebuilding my Druidry, as well as rebuilding parts of my own Self – to integrate the two more tightly and appropriately – well, that’s just being honest with myself over what needs to be done. The “fake it ‘tll you make it” tripe just never felt like I was being honest with myself. Others can disagree. I am not them. They are not me.

–T /|\

Rebuilding My Druidry: Ritual

Spring is one of those times of the year that I enjoy being outside. The temperature is not too cold here in central Tejas. Nor is it face-melting hot, but there is a promise in the air that this will be the future here. The elbow-in-the-ribs joke is that if you don’t like the weather here, just wait ten minutes. Except in the dead of Summer.

Spring also has the promise of one of the celebrations on the Wheel of the Year that I tend to avoid – Beltane. I have discussed that before, though. However, the year of lockup and lock-down that COVID-19 has provided for all of us, has uncovered a lot of other things for me. I have begun to see this past year of COVID-19 like a river in a high-drought season. As the water’s depth disappears, the stones that make up the river’s bed get exposed. Your perception of the river changes because of that. In so many ways, COVID-19 has done this for me in many places in my life – personally, professionally, and even Spiritually. This uncovering of the stones in the river bed has led me to re-examine parts of my own Druidry.

In the past, I have always tried to make two large celebrations in my nearest Pagan community. Not because the celebrations were important. My attendance was more about being able to mingle with the people there – re-igniting connections with others. The largest of these, for me, is the Gulf Coast Gathering (GCG), here in the States. I have never missed any of the celebrations. Due to COVID-19, I will have missed the last two years of this gathering of OBOD Druids. Many of these people are more than friends. They are family. Many of them, I only get to see at this gathering. Due to our busy lives, we rarely converse outside of the gathering. So, GCG serves as more than a celebration of a spoke of the Wheel of the Year. In many respects, it truly is a family reunion.

Over the past year, I have been to exactly zero gatherings. The last OBOD member I have seen face-to-face was John Beckett back in early March of last year. This past year has taught me the importance of these gatherings to what I am as a Druid, and as a person. All this time away has also taught me another perspective, that my Spirituality does not necessarily have to be focused around the Wheel of the Year. But one step at a time in this conversation.

I have never considered myself to be much of a social creature. When I was at Pantheacon, Many Gods West, the ADF Imbolc Retreat I have frequently attended, or even Gulf Coat Gathering – I was never really drawn to the celebratory gatherings that have occurred in the late-night hours. In my time at any of those events, I would retire far earlier than others for sleep. The truth be told, I always felt uncomfortable around any of those after-hours moments. My idea of winding down after any of these conferences, retreats, or gatherings was to sit around a fire and have quiet conversations about whatever subject. I have truly never been the “party-on” type of person. I do; however, miss the people that I encountered and spent time with at these events. Our discussions might take place on a porch or in a hotel hallway or across a small table in a Subway restaurant, but I have found that I crave these discussions the most. These discussions form a strong basis of how I work through my Spirituality on my own, and without them, I don’t always have the fertile ground that I am hoping for when I contemplate things, such as my own “Pagan Square Mile.”

Much of my practice has focused around the Wheel of the Year. I have worked personal rituals to the various spokes. I always found the time to attend group celebrations as well. This past year, I purposefully abandoned all of that. The exact reasoning of “why” is not important. During that time, I started questioning and rebuilding aspects of my Druidry. My heavy focus on ritual was one of those aspects that received a lot more scrutiny than I had originally intended. I had realized that I spent too much time worrying about what part of the Year I was in, and far less time being absorbed in my surroundings, and my local environment. When I worked at the college, my morning and evening drives consisted of a short ten-mile drive on a dirt road between five cattle farms. I didn’t need to celebrate the Wheel of the Year to see the cycle of death and re-birth. I could watch it through my windshield every single day. I saw cattle disappear from the various herds, obviously sold to market for food production. I would see the new baby calves Just a few days after their birth, moving on shaky legs. A few months later, these same calves would challenge my truck to a race along the fence line, a comical sight to be certain, but a definite sign of their growth. I certainly didn’t need ritual to experience the cycle of life. I only had to live and observe everything around me.

Don’t get me wrong. Ritual has a place within my life. In the smaller form of daily devotionals to Crow, Coyote, and Abnoba, I have an aspect of ritual that takes place every day. My focus on larger ritual celebrations tends to focus around the Equinoxes and the Solstices more than anything else. But ritual has never been the be-all, end-all that it tends to be for other Pagans. Before anyone thinks that I am taking a massive shit on the experiences and practices of others, I will point out that I have never said once that everyone should stop placing strong emphasis on rituals. I am simply pointing out that my Spiritual practice does not have the same manner of emphasis. I know what works for me, what calls to my soul…there is no way in the Nine Hells that I would ever believe that what I do should be done in the same manner by anyone other than myself.

Certainly, there are going to be those Pagans that will point to what I have written here and say that I am “wrong” in my approach. All I can really do is shrug my shoulders and move on. If they were looking for an argument or fight, they probably need to go back twenty years or more and approach me there. At my age, I have no desire to argue or fight about how I approach my own Spirituality. I have other areas where I wish to focus my time, and energy.

So, today brings another light-blue sky for my Sunday afternoon. I would prefer to be outside for at least part of it. I have my mask with me. My intention is to be outside, doing what I do as a Pagan…living my life and experiencing the day.

–T /|\

Thinking About: Paper Airplanes and Personal Experience – Why I Enjoy Teaching

Synchronicity is defined as “the simultaneous occurrence of events which appear significantly related but have no discernible causal connection.” I have often referred to it as a “gentle nudge” from the Gods” or even as “the Universe is trying to tell me something.” This doesn’t happen often for me, so it’s not something I can put an absolute definition to. Honestly, I don’t really care to even try to define what it is at the moment. I’m not a person that gets hung up on definitions or the uber-minutiae of stuff. So long as I can grasp what’s up…well, that’s all that really matters in my thinking.

The past few weeks, I have been catching up with a lot of older friends and colleagues that I have lost touch with over the years. While we have caught up, a running theme has started to occur in our discussions. Over and over, I have been asked if I was going to head back to the classroom. Not to learn, but to teach. That is not a direction I have entertained openly. Frankly, adjunct faculty members at the collegiate level get paid bullshit wages. But I can string together adjunct positions at several colleges that have online instructor needs, to help supplement things. In a manner of speaking, I would be going full-on mercenary in the collegiate world.

Professionally, I must face some facts concerning my place in both the technology and collegiate administration worlds. I turn fifty-six this year. In the Technology world, this provides me with the moniker of being a dinosaur. Skill-wise, I am what is referred to as a trouble-shooter. In today’s vernacular, I would be classified as a generalist. If that is still confusing you think of this in terms of the statement: “jack of all trades, master of none.” In today’s marketplace, generalists are at the bottom of the structure, bottom of the pay-scale, and are the most expendable piece of the corporate structure. Furthermore, these positions are typically filled by individuals out of high school. An individual of my age, my experience, and my education (one bachelor’s degree, two master’s degrees) would easily be passed over as “over-qualified”. In the collegiate administration, I find myself in a similar strait.

However, the faculty realm is a bit of a different story. Age is not a major factor. Experience is needed in your field of instruction. Mastery of a particular area is a desirable thing, but not necessarily a be-all, end-all thing. You need to know how to connect with the students over the course of your instruction with them. You need to have the ability to intelligently discuss technical issues in a way that non-technical people can understand and relate to the material. I have done all of this during the first three years I worked at the college. I still do this when I have friends that ask for technical assistance with their computers. As much as it pains my high school instructors to hear it, I’m an instructor.

Even my former faculty members have urged me to get back into the classroom. When I taught at the college, I was known for my unorthodox lessons. One semester, I utilized an entire class period to teach the students about assembly line concepts and techniques. I did that by having them build paper airplanes according to a specified set of instructions. Airplanes that were not constructed correctly were rejected at the Quality Control step. The number of correctly built airplanes at the end of ten minutes were counted. The team with the most correctly built airplanes received fifty bonus points to be split among the team members. Once the counting had been completed, and the chaotic noise had subsided, we had a conversation over what they observed during the process. Bottlenecks, the need for precision in following instructions, and the perspective of specialization on the assembly line were openly discussed. Yes, the class was an introduction to Business Information Systems, but to understand how Information systems provide information relating to business operations, they had to learn the business operations. The students loved the exercise. My team lead was not too enthusiastic, claiming it was a waste of class time, until I demonstrated it during a department meeting.

For me, teaching is not just vomiting facts, dates, and other information from a text. Teaching is about making those facts, dates, and information come to life for the students. How does all of that relate to their daily lives? Where and how does this subset of technology touch their lives? Teaching is about bringing the concepts to life in a very personal way for the student. It means that you must love explaining things, and never tire of hearing questions.

For OBOD’s Bard, Ovate, and (presumably) the Druid grades (I have not made it to Druid grade, so I can only speculate here), there are mentors that are available to help you. A place where you can ask questions of someone who has been through the lessons of that grade. Someone that can help gently guide you towards a specific way of seeing the material, without running the perspective and personal experience that it will provide. I imagine that these folks love what they do, otherwise being a mentor would be a rather unfulfilling prospectus for them. Hopefully, one day, I can step into such a role, should the Order think I am a good fit for that. I certainly would find that to be a fulfilling direction for me.

So, today, I have started re-working my resume to emphasize my perspective and experience on being an instructor. Within fifty miles of where I am right now, there are ten Community Colleges and Universities where I might be able to be added to their adjunct instructor pools. There are five or more national institutions where I can potentially find employment as an adjunct instructor. I am cautious, but hopeful of finding my place at any of these as an online instructor, or for the closer ones, being able to teach face-to-face (my preference). Instead of struggling to find a place where my skill sets may fit in, I will be looking for something where I get to do what I enjoy most – sharing my experiences with others, and getting them to understand, in a very intimate and personal manner, the information being presented to them. I feel like I am doing the same thing here on this blog. Sharing my experiences and my perspective with others. I hope you find what I write to be rewarding, informative, and thoughtful. I do enjoy writing these blog posts.

As I missed the Tuesday blog post because of medical appointments on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday – I will be posting two blog posts over the weekend. I will be headed more into some of my personal “how-to” perspectives of my own Druidry and Paganism. Until Saturday (the first post)….

–T /|\

Photo by Rakicevic Nenad on Pexels.com

Goooooooals! Thinking About the Process…

Yesterday, I was reading a post on the ESPN Major League baseball site about what goals the writer thought each team should have going into this season. Goals. That prompted me to start thinking about my own goals, and how to apply those to what I work on daily. And I started segmenting my life into various areas. My Professional life. My Spiritual life. My Educational direction. My physical workout direction. As I did this, the goals all started to pile up, and I realized I didn’t have enough time in the day to reach everything I wanted to get to. That felt paralyzing. However, I didn’t want things to stop there. So, I took the evening to think a bit more on all of it.

Segmenting Life

Early in all the thinking, I realized that segmenting my life might not be the best thing in the world. I have heard it referred to as compartmentalizing, where one takes certain things and separates them from others. Lately, I have begun to realize that doing this is not workable for me. While I work in data and statistics, I cannot separate that from my Druidry. My Druidry provides me insight into my analysis and finding trends in the data I work on. How everything fits together and operates together is part of how I view the entire world around me. To divorce my Druidry from my Professional life would require me to not utilize my approach to everything around me. I just cannot do that. The same holds true for my approach to my own education or my approach to being more physically fit. All of which fits together to make a more complete picture. Separating each of these into individual component parts to be approached and worked on individually would, in essence, be ignoring everything I understand about myself.

Setting My Goals

I used to keep these elaborate lists of everything that needed to be accomplished. I would even graph out specified time frames in my calendar to bracket time for completing things. A few months back, I realized that this approach was just not really working for me. I do keep lists, particularly when I am packing for a trip, but I found that this process was not really working for handling my goals. So, I turned towards a different approach. I started to set smaller, more realistic goals that I could work towards without building these elaborate lists.

As an example, my Ovate grade work has many aspects to it. There is a lot of things that need to be accomplished, a lot of approaches to be thought through. I used to mark on a calendar a time frame that I would work on each Gwers. Each time I set up this goal-oriented structure, it failed. I would find myself off-track after a short period of time. So, I altered the approach to not be so list or task structured. I work with each Gwers as I can. Sometimes, one lesson is worked through and absorbed quickly. Sometimes its not. However, I have no worries or anxiety because I no longer place time limits on my time with each one. This stuff is not a race. Now, with work related things, it’s a little different. I am not the one setting the deadlines. But I do try to approach my work in a similar vein. I do my best not to hurry.

Working (and Rocking) My Goals

I do have long-term goals. I have a desire to finish my Ovate grade and move on to the Druid grade. Its not a given that it will happen, but it is my goal and desire to do so. I am seeing a need for more education in my Professional life. I am already looking into prospects for another master’s degree, which will assist me in improving my ability to do my work. There is always a chance to better yourself. I am headed in that direction. My physical self during this time of COVID has been diminished, thanks to being held inside (mostly). I am looking at ways to improve my physical strength, as well as my diminished health. No heavy goals here, except to get healthier. I am not looking to make a certain weight or be able to ride a stationary bike at a certain speed for a certain distance. Just a desire to get healthier.

One thing I have learned is that when you set unreachable goals for yourself, your failure to reach those unattainable heights can influence your mental health. Sometimes, its far better to walk away from those unattainable goals than to continue to reach for what is constantly just out of your grasp. Believe me, that is a hard lesson to learn. Plus, it is a real head-slam when you finally understand it. The difficult part is to not beat yourself up over it. Yes, you failed. But you can always alter your approach and try again. But there are also goals that will never be attainable. Those, you need to realize for yourself, and walk away without trying again. Those are the hardest moments that you can have.

Now, I will end this with stuff that I usually say. This is a process and a set of thinking that works for me. This is not going to work for everyone. Everyone is their own individual. Everyone will have their own way of motivating themselves towards their goals. Everyone will have their own way of analyzing things. I am not writing this as an ultimate manifesto of how to do things. I write this as a potential kick-starter for others to examine their own personal processes. I am not the ultimate authority of anything, except where it pertains to myself. I do suggest that if you find yourself getting paralyzed over trying to move forward with your own personal goals…start small. Those small successes will help. For me, it provided a way of seeing that I could accomplish things. That I was able to do it. Just a thought. Your mileage will vary.

–T /|\

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Howling Into the Wind: Wiser and Older But Still Foolish

Life has certainly changed a lot for me – not just in the past few months, but also over the longer course of this river that is my life. I keep thinking back to the first few years of where I was in my Pagan Path comparing it against the Pagan and Druid I have become today. I see a lot of differences. A lot more than I had initially realized. I had honestly never thought I would be where I am at now. In fact, looking back, I am not even sure of where I thought things were going to go for me as a Pagan.

In the Beginning

Most of my Spiritual background comes from an empty slate. My parents were Protestants but sent me to Catholic schools because the education there was supposedly better than the public schools. I learned a lot about the Catholic church’s history, its rituals, and its philosophy. The problem with that…I simply didn’t believe what I was being taught by the Priests, Nuns, and other faculty members. Perhaps, part of that is the rebellious streak that I have in me. I have never taken to having something shoved down my throat. Frankly, I learn better when the material is presented to me, and I am given the opportunity to make decisions on my own.

Once I graduated high school, I moved over to the Southern Baptist realm. Again, I rebelled against having a philosophical perspective shoved down my throat. The ladies were prettier though. 😊 I didn’t really learn much about this belief system while I was there. I came to realize quickly that I was no fan of the presentation method of loud yelling and threatening “unbelievers” with a painful eternal life in Hell. I never have dealt too well with threatening perspectives. Threats only make me feel like my back is against the wall.

Eventually, I came across a Wiccan Priestess that I was interested in romantically. She was up-front about her beliefs and offered me the late-Margot Adler’s “Drawing Down the Moon” to provide me some perspective. What I read was what I had believed – right there in words. At the end of the book, I noticed a Bibliography of other books, and was compelled to ask about those. Luckily, she had a few of those in her library and provided those to me. At this time, I was in the Air Force and stationed at Carswell Air Force Base in Fort Worth, Texas.

On-Fire for Paganism

I would read these books during the shifts that I worked in the Data Processing Center, where I worked the base’s mainframe operations. Late at night, when the work was done (or during the long weekend hours), I would not only read about how Pagans and Witches had been treated over the ages according to what the authors would write – I would openly try to discuss this with the Christians that I worked with. I was never very kind about what I read and what I thought of it. Eventually, this pushed me on to a shift where the other three members were all Evangelical Preachers for their congregations. Eight-hour shifts with these guys felt like an eternity. Twelve-hour shifts were absolutely Hell. Over time, I learned to just work and keep my mouth shut.

That was a good thirty-plus years ago. I was not very accommodating of Christian beliefs and was hot-headed enough to say so. These days, my perspective has changed a lot. I see the Christian path as valid for those who seek to follow it. Those who attempt to ram it down your throat – well, they are simply doing what they feel is right. So long as they do not try to force me to believe as they do – its easy for me to ignore them and move along. This choice has certainly made my Path a lot quieter than it was before. 😊

Stick to the Rules

Reading a lot of the books, I saw how rituals were outlined, and all the setup work that went into making things “right”. Certain types of incense for certain rites. Certain color candles for this and that. If I couldn’t find the exact stuff – I just wasn’t going to be able to do the ritual. To me, at that time, these books were holy writ. No changing anything. Over time and talking with other Pagans that I have encountered along my long, flowing river – well, I have come to realize that nothing must be a certain way. Anything can be done with what you have on-hand. Its your intent that matters more. Don’t have candles? Flashlights can suffice, if needed. Don’t have drinking water available? A bottle of Dr. pepper can stand in for that if needed. Don’t have ritual clothing? No worries. That Pet Shop Boys concert t-shirt, those worn-out jeans, and your beat-up tennis will be all right. Forgot the words? Well, if you don’t have a physical copy of the ritual…wing it, if you can. There’s nothing wrong with any of that. What matters more is where your heart is at that moment. Where your mind is. Where your being is focused. The rules, the outline of the ritual, the various tools, clothing items – shit, even the date you do the ritual – is just extra and not really needed. The only thing that can’t be replaced or over-looked…is you.

To be openly honest, most of my rituals that I do on my own are impromptu. I have a basic structure that looks somewhat like OBOD’s ritual framework, but only somewhat. Outside of that, everything is stuff from the top of my head. I know that none of what I do for myself will have much impact for others. But I am a solo Druid. The only impact I am worried about in a ritual-for-one is for me. When I gather with a group of Druids or Pagans for any ritual aspect, I follow their guidelines to the letter. Their show…their rules. For me, it really is as simple as that.

Where Does It All Go?

Back when I first started down my Pagan Path, I honestly do not recall myself having any kind of direction. Even when I was part of the Wiccan groups I started with. My goals were essentially whatever they told me those should be. I had no idea where I was going or what I was doing. By the time I came to Druidry, I had a better idea of what I was trying to do – what kind of Pagan I wanted to be – even what kind of Druid I wanted to focus on being. That was around eleven years ago. A lot has changed for me since then. My focus is a little different. I have a desire to be a mentor…but I have no idea where or how to get there. Or if that Path would even be open to me at this point. I know I have a lot more to learn. My Path is only now starting to come out of one of the darkest periods in my life. There are lessons from that which I still need to learn and process. And lessons that I learned during my time in the dark that I need to work on completely removing. All of that takes time. It takes work. It takes sweat and effort. I honestly can’t say I knew that starting down this river. I really did think this was all just reading books and drinking and chanting around a campfire. Damn I was young and foolish. I’m older now. I can still be foolish…as shown by the last year. However, as I have learned over time – experience is a damn gorgeous teacher. A bit stern sometimes, a bit harsh at others, but She is awesome, nonetheless.

Through it all, I must echo what Mickey Hart said at the end of the Grateful Dead’s last show. Be kind. Not just to others, but to yourself too. You will make mistakes. You will get hurt. But if your heart is in the right place, you will heal – and continue. Just be kind about it all.

By the way, I am not the Pagan I was when I first started down this river. Thank the Gods for that. Looking back, I was not a very pleasant individual to be around. Some would say that I am still not a pleasant individual to be around now. 😉 But I would like to believe that I am a much more mellow individual than I was. Much more forgiving. Much more understanding. And yes, kinder.

–T /|\

Have I Got An Offer For You

I just looked at the calendar…if I was working for the college still, I would be looking at Spring Break right now. It feels like the entire last year has been an extremely long, extended Spring Break.

I was reading through a handful of Facebook posts from friends, and there was a post written about offerings to the Gods. I didn’t reply because I thought it would make a better blog post. Well, we shall see if that thinking was misplaced, right? 😊 The good part here is that I am finding writing prompts from a lot of other places than just my over-thinking mind. So, let’s just take a jaunt into this arena, shall we?

In the Beginning

When I first started to toddle along on my Pagan path, the idea of offerings was alien to me. Whenever it was presented to me, it had a similar feeling to the symbolic Last Supper rites within the Catholic mass. Just presented in a different way. Since I didn’t really want anything like the Catholic faith in what I was trying to accomplish on my own Path, offerings were simply not a part of what I did in those years. I do joke that I am a lapsed Catholic, but the reality is that this is where my childhood was set – thanks to my parents. So, with that symbology firmly ensconced in my head, the gesture of offering food and drink to the Gods felt almost like a reversal of the process to me. Looking back, I can see where my mind placed an unwarranted and unnatural perspective to all of this, but this is where my head took me.

This process was not helped by an extremely healthy dislike and disgust for the Christian faiths by the Pagans that I was working directly with. While this is a thought for a different post, it is an example of how so many aspects of our chosen Spirituality overlap into various areas of our belief. My unwarranted knee-jerk reaction to offerings can be slightly attributed to this type of collateral thinking.

Trying to Understand

As you can see, my approach to the idea of offerings was poisoned from the well, so to speak. However, as time wore on, my derision towards the concept of offerings was slowly being challenged. Like any new Pagan, as time marched slowly through my life, I started looking for new positions around the fire where I could sit. I found other Pagans to discuss Spiritual matters with. From these perspectives, I found more books and authors to read. These brought me to different perspectives of offerings, and a new light in which to observe and relate to the concept.

Now, you might view the above paragraph and think it took me a short period of time to contemplate the changes in my attitude towards offerings. That, simply, is not true. The above paragraph encompasses a period of close to two decades of my life. For me, my understanding of something happens over time. Changes to that perspective move at a glacial pace. Much like my emotions, I cannot change my thinking like one turns a faucet on or off. I’m just not built that way.

In the beginning, I had seen offerings as something that was an empty gesture – made for the benefit of others. Sort of like a Hollywood movie moment. Over time, I started to see offerings as a moment where one would share what they have with the Gods, or the Spirits of a Place, or the Spirits of Ancestor. The gesture is made in gratitude, and in hospitality. In essence, an individual or group presenting the offering is accepting the Gods, the Spirits of Place, or the Spirits of Ancestor as guests to the rite. These guests are being accorded the hospitality that one would provide to any other individual that had been invited to the rite.

To be completely open and honest, this is not a conclusion I came to quite a while ago. In terms of my thirty-plus years on this Path, this is a recent development for me. Quite a while back, I attended the ADF Texas Imbolc Retreat, presented by Hearthstone Grove. This is where I encountered a very real representation of making offerings to the Gods, the Spirits of Place, and the Spirits of Ancestors. Experiencing the heartfelt presentation of others to their Gods helped me immensely in understanding the entire concept as it is practiced by both individuals and groups. I cannot put enough gratitude towards all the people I have been with at the various Texas Imbolc Retreats, who have helped me understand what offerings really by what are about, through their actions.

Comprehending What Others Offer

An aspect of offerings that I have found to be somewhat controversial is what exactly to provide as an offering. I have found that there are many ways to interpret what is “proper” and what is not in an offering, dependent on the individual asked. I have seen a lot of items provided as offerings at various rituals. Incense, oils poured on fires, alcohol poured on fires or on the ground, water set in a bowl at the edge of the ritual area, food stuffs of many types tossed into a fire, effigies of various types placed in the fire, and so many others. Each is usually provided with some perspective of justification as to its usage in this instance. Some of the perspectives I understand. Others, not so much.

Probably the most difficult part of this is to not be judgmental over what others offer. One participant popped Rolo candies into the fire as an offering, which I thought to be somewhat odd. A short while later, I came to understand that while it certainly was odd, the individual was offering something that they would consume to the Gods. They were sharing their bounty (or their version of it) with the Gods, just as if they were serving a guest with a portion of the harvest. I had similar misgivings when I first saw individuals pouring whiskey and other alcoholic drinks into a fire as an offering to the Gods. But the aspect is similar. You share with the Gods what you would share with any other guest.

Part of what I needed to realize was that was being offered by the individual was something that mattered directly to them. They were not just offering something that they picked out for the occasion, but something that held an everyday meaning to them. For all I know, the individual offering the Rolo candies was offering something that was an everyday comfort item to them. Thus, the candies were not a sacrifice of some sort, but rather an item being shared with the Gods. While sacrificing an item as an offering is a real thing, the sharing of an item has an air of hospitality to it. And that is certainly a topic for another post.

What I Have to Offer

What follows is my own understanding, perspective, and justification as it applies to my own daily Path.

As I said before, I came to this aspect of offerings late in my Path. Being a diabetic, I do not drink much. I might have two or three beers over the course of a year. Maybe, I will add a glass of whiskey to that total over the same year, but usually not. My heavy drinking days are long behind me. But I do keep a bottle of Irish whiskey (Bushmill’s, of course!) to make special offerings with. When a fellow OBOD Gulf Coast Gathering member passed on, I left two gold-dollar coins and a shot of whiskey at my backyard circle for his crossing. This is precisely what I purchased the whiskey for – offerings of a special variety.

But alcohol is not the only thing I have used for special offerings. When my two beloved girls, Gizmo and Kaylee, contracted cancer and I took them to the vet to be put to sleep (a grace considering the amount of pain they were both in), I felt two saucers of heavy cream out at the circle, along with a shot of the Bushmill’s. The cream was for my girls.  The whiskey was for the Spirits of Ancestor, a thank you for helping my babies cross the Rainbow Bridge.

My usual offering comes in the forms of water and birdseed. The water is a symbolic gesture of life and is always the same water that I would drink. As the Water Protectors in the Dakotas reminded us during the Dakota Access Pipeline Protests – “Water is Life”. The birdseed is a thank you to the Gods for the daily inspiration that I have in my daily life. Plus, the birdseed attracts the birds to the backyard, which keeps the ‘Bird Channel” going for my two youngest cats, Raven and Gabby. 😊 But the thank you to the Gods is done by providing for the wildlife that is here in the area. While I live in a rural-ish area, I do live in what looks like an everyday suburban neighborhood. The animals were here before we were. They still need to eat too.

I give my offerings for a lot of reasons, but primarily as a reminder that I am still alive, and as a thank you to the Gods for looking after me. A strong bout with pneumonia, a high-blood sugars diabetic episode which had me in a coma for a bit more than a day, and this entire COVID pandemic – I have plenty to be thankful for in being alive.

Conclusion

Offerings come in many forms and are given for a variety of reasons that are as expansive as the Universe itself. I have reasons for the offerings I provide. Some Pagans may feel the need not to provide offerings, considering these to not be a part of their daily practice, or even feeling that these are not necessary. I can completely grok that. I have been there too. There is not one damn thing wrong with that. However, if you are contemplating adding the idea of offerings to your daily practice, take some time to figure out what you want to do. I didn’t discuss the “hows” of giving offerings because I feel that figuring out the wording, gestures, and ritual aspect is best left to the individual. How you talk to the Gods, the Spirits of Place and your Spirits of Ancestors will be as different as you and I are. That’s a good thing too. Because when it comes down to it, how you practice your beliefs – should be up to you.

–T /|\

Dealing With Cultural Appropriation – My Personal Take

Currently, I am going through a “dry” period of coming up with what to write about. Thankfully, a few folks have offered up suggestions on what to write. This weekend’s blog post is courtesy of a question from Ashlynn G. in Washington state. Ashlynn had read my earlier post on cultural appropriation and wanted to know how I approach others on that perspective when I encounter it with them.

This is a bit of a tough area for me. I am not the kind of person that goes around looking for other peoples’ approaches to blow up. I have never found approaching others over their approaches to Spirituality to be a comfortable topic. Even as a friendly discussion. I have my own way of going about my Spirituality and have never felt a need to judge someone else’s approach. There are those that I find distasteful from my own perspective, but I am also not in their shoes. To judge another’s approach beyond how it would or would not apply to myself…well, that’s just not me nor is it something that I feel is a necessary thing for me to do.

Yes, I get the cultural appropriation charge leveled against me because I do have close relationships with two First Nations Gods. However, it has been made very apparent to me that I am not of “the People” (First Nations’ folk). That specific Path is not mine, as I was told. My Path and working with Crow and Coyote is different than that of “the People.” Pow-wows, sweat lodges, vision quests, and the such are not on my Path. I have never been invited to any such thing either. And to be honest, I am not sure I would accept if I were invited. The perspective of a Shaman would never apply to me. I work with Crow and Coyote because They called to me. I can’t control that. But I can ensure that I am not trampling into areas I should not tread.

The same holds true when being provided a description of someone else’s Path. What Gods that they work with is not for me to denigrate. Even the rituals, spell work, and the such is really none of my business. My place is not to be the judge of how others conduct themselves on their Path. I do not know what agreements, contracts, and what-not they have bargained with their Gods. Nor do I need to be privy to that either. My footfalls are the steps that I can control. Those are the steps that I need to concentrate on.

Occasionally, I will run across Pagan folks that feel it is their duty to battle Christians over perspectives, actions, and what-not. Way back when I was a far more zealous Pagan, I would wade into these “battles” on Bulletin Board Systems (BBSs – and yes I am dating my fifty-five-year-old self here) for prolonged ‘warfare”. Looking back, I must ask myself a few questions. What did it accomplish? What image did it portray to those not involved in the “discussion”? What did I really intend to have occur? The answers are simple, and not very pleasant to my ears. These accomplished nothing. Essentially, to others, I came off as a very angry, preachy Pagan. Unfortunately, my desire was to try and get folks on the other side to admit to the hypocrisy that I saw in their beliefs.

Much of where I am now on stuff like this comes down to boundaries. Boundaries that I have set myself – for myself. Words do not have to be answered with zealotry and misplaced passion. Words need only be answered with truth and answered only once. Prolonged and protracted arguments will do nothing to establish “right” or “wrong”. Plus, words are only words. When someone takes those words a further step with action – things change a bit. Answering the actions of zealotry requires action in return. Hurt those I love and care about, and that crosses another boundary I have set. I am not an individual of violent reaction. I prefer discussion over fists and weapons. I prefer common ground over battlefields. But my preference can sometimes not be the vanguard of the day.

Hypothetically, how would I approach someone whose personal practice is crossing into the territory of cultural appropriation, blatant or otherwise? Well, as I said before, discussion is my preference to any approach. I would prefer to be as courteous as I could, not come in with guns blazing. The reason is extremely simple. I have no idea why they are doing things the way that they are. I don’t know the bargains that they have made. My assumption may be false, and I am assuming. Even with people I have known forever. My preference is to tread lightly just in case I am wrong. If they don’t listen? Well, in that case, I have done what I can. Forcing people to see a potential error in their ways brings me back to those protracted “discussions” on the BBSs. Arguing for the sake of making noise, essentially. I am no longer that Pagan. Thirty-plus years has softened my approach to such things. Besides, I would prefer to let the Gods and karma do that work. Both are far better at it than I could ever imagine I could be.

So, Ashlynn, I hope this answers your question in a way that is helpful and informative. There are others that will disagree with my approach, and prefer the guns blazin’ approach. I understand how they get there. I was there once myself. This; however, is the way that I believe would be best…if I was to approach someone over such things. As I said, the Gods and karma are far better at responding to such things that I could ever be.

–T /|\