Get the Label Machine Out….

Lots of things happening all at once — all of it draws attention in one way or another. Depending on the person, and what they are interested in, the degree of noticeability will be greater, smaller, or nonexistent. If you go back a few years in my previous podcast “From the Edge of the Circle” – you will find a period where I paid a lot of attention to the politics of the day. Over time, my attention for this has waned a great deal.

Now, stopping the narrative here, I typically get accused of not caring about my government or the legislative process. In other words, some folks draw a conclusion that since I do not have a marked interest in incessantly reading, parroting, or discussing/debating politics that I do not participate in the election process. This is not true. I monitor when my local polling location is open, read up on the topics, make my own decision, and proceed to my polling location and vote. In fact, when I last checked with my county’s head of elections – we went to college together – I fall in the roughly eight to ten percent of the county population that does vote in what is termed “off-cycle elections”. These are the elections that do not have a Presidential race (every four years), or a Governor’s race (four year cycle as well, but done in the two years between the Presidential cycle). So the assumption made about me is not true.

A corollary manner of assumption comes from my chosen manner of “discussion” in online forums — such as Facebook. In the past, many of my friends from back in my BBS days can attest to this, I would lustily step into any battle on politics or religion. I would roll up my sleeves and prepare for a message after message after message battle on a topic. Some of these back and forth debates took place over the course of several months. Now, in today’s internet communications model, these “debates” can take place in a matter of minutes – even when the participants are separated by oceans, mountains, fields, and rivers. Another unfortunate side-effect of the internet platform is that it is rife with conversations that turn into debates and quickly devolve into insult events of a nearly festal nature. Maybe I am growing old and weary at an age of nearly fifty; however, chatter of this nature tends to drive me away rather quickly. I just have no desire to wallow and party in an atmosphere of personal negativity. Thus, my adoptive posture in “conversations” of this nature is to state my point a single time, and potentially clarify it with a follow-on statement. Then to just leave it at that.

I can actually see where certain assumptions would be drawn from this chosen form of “tossing my two loonies in the well” – so to speak. Its the overly quick manner in which (seemingly) everyone jumps to a quick conclusion of another person’s state of mind without trying to explore more in-depth through more genial, amiable conversation. Rather, there seems to be a proclivity towards immediately applying labels to other people based off of a single sentence, and sometimes that sentence barely achieves the state of a fragment. I have talked quite a bit previously about labels here in the blog. And yet, I use labels in my job every single day. Students can be labeled as male, female, white, black, hispanic, multi-racial, international, American Indian, Pacific Islander, Asian, First-time, Transfer, Continuing, Full-time, Part-time, Degree-seeking, Personal Development, Certificate-seeking, and many, many more labels. This all helps me to classify various students in various manners for the many State and Federal reports that the college has to submit. But when you wipe all that away, students are better known by other labels: Jennifer, Eric, Mom, Dad, Grandmother, Grandfather, Uncle, Aunt, Sweetheart, beloved….all perfectly good labels, and far better suited to each individual person.

Recently, there were a lot of folks talking about a panel or meeting of some sort at Pantheacon where various Pagan folk talked about how racial aspects affect them within the Pagan community. Furthermore, talk was brought about on Paganism being dominated within the United States by European traditions (predominantly white). Some folks decided to lampoon the idea of this panel, and some offense was taken to that measure. Now, before I go much further, I was not there. Nor, have I kept up with the discussions, blog posts, debates, and such concerning this. I am a white male, following a framework of religious belief, ritual practice, and ethical purpose combined from many different ethnic areas. I work with the Crow in my meditations, and have dedicated my service to Him through my podcast (Crows being messengers). I utilize meditation techniques that I have garnered from Far East traditions. Granted, I might not be utilizing these completely in a correct manner — but I am utilizing these in a manner that works for me. I follow a religious and ritual Path from the aforementioned European mode. And to be perfectly honest – I have no desire to have others follow in my footsteps, unless they desire to do so. I completely grok where folks are coming from with their point that Paganism is seemingly “too white” — but until I think about it from that perspective, I don’t really see the skin color. In my normally, everyday life — I deal with students from all walks of life, all economic levels, and all racial aspects. I see people. Skin color, economic status, gender, sexual orientation — does not even enter into the equation. At least until the State and Federal reporting comes in — and to be honest, creating those reports makes my skin crawl. Its part of my job, but one that I find to be extremely distasteful.

Coming back to the point — we, people collectively, seem to be predisposed to being offended. We are quick to label, quick to disagree, quick to judge, slow to listen, slower to discuss, and slow to comprehend from another perspective. And before you think I am pointing my finger directly at you – this finger is also pointed directly at MYSELF. I am not pompous or self-centered enough to believe that I am outside of this equation. I sit directly in this with everyone else. I will find myself judging someone without talking to them or reading their perspective on something. And when I do find myself achieving this status with nary a blink, I have a tendency to harshly criticize myself. Mostly internal, but sometimes I will state my displeasure at myself out loud.

So I am left to wonder, just what kind of world we would live in today if we just stopped to think about things from every angle? Sure, there are decisions that have to be made at a split second – not lending to the idea of exploring all angles. But what about other decisions that are not so life threatening? What if you stepped outside to get the paper at the end of the driveway, looked across the street and saw the new neighbors moving in. On the bumper of one of their cars is the “coexist” sticker. How do you feel about your new neighbor now? What if there were another sticker on there instead that said “Proud member of the NRA”? Or a “McCain/Palin” sticker? Or a “Ted Cruz for Senate”? Or would you disregard the stickers, walk across the street and offer a hand to help your neighbor move in?? I do wonder how different the world would be, if we dismissed all the labels and spent some time digging a little deeper under the surface of who people are.

A Different Drummer? Nine Hells, I Brought My Own Orchestra!

I do not typically watch award shows. Last night Academy Awards show was no different. My reticence comes from one area alone — having to listen to people pontificate about all the people that “helped” them to achieve the award that they have just received. While it may not be a series of empty platitudes, to my own – untrained – ear, this is precisely the feeling that comes off. Add to that, whoever is hosting tries to keep people entertained in-between segments with jokes that are either superbly flat or purposefully outrageous to an insulting and scandalous level. On both counts, I just have very little tolerance to subject myself to that. Sort of like the lack of tolerance you may have to taking a flat-head screwdriver and jamming it into your right eye socket. Late last night, I had a particular acceptance speech pointed out to me — Graham Moore accepting the award for Best Adapted Screenplay for the movie “The Imitation Game”. It was not the fact that he had won an award for a movie that I not only loved, but was emotionally moved by — it was what Graham said at the very end of his acceptance speech that prompted a friend to point it out to me. I have included a video snippet from YouTube here:

Essentially, his point is for people to stay “weird” — to not despair when other people ridicule you for being who you are. To not take your own life as a final act of desperation; that there will come a time when you stand atop the rocks and have succeeded. If only that were true to the degree he was pointing out — to win an award and receive international recognition for your talents. But then, we are back to where we were in the last post — trying to define what “success” is and how it can be measured.

I work in a college. Previously, I taught in the classroom with the same college for three years. During my time as an instructor, I measured success by what students learned while in my classroom, and if they could apply some of that knowledge in the final assignment. Most of the time, I was disappointed; other times — and far fewer — I was elated at how a group of students would take to the subject, and broaden their understanding. I joked, frequently, that I would be happy if I could reach just one or two students in a semester and achieve the results I was wanting. Typically, I taught up to ninety students in that time frame. As part of the administration, I see a different side to the “success” equation – students are measured under a grading scale. A’s, B’s, and C’s are considered to be “successes” – anything else is strictly a “failure”. And here I had been sitting in the classroom, counseling students that “failures are not failures – just merely opportunities to learn and grow from”. What a twisted quandary that is turning out to be in my mind.

So, back to Mr. Moore’s speech. Yes, I am taking a small bit of exception with his pointing out that if you stay “weird” – eventually you will be able to rise up above the insults and hurtful rhetoric that tends to be blasted in your direction. I understand where Mr. Moore is coming from – and I find his statement to be one of beauty and optimism, something I really wish I had in my early youth.

I grew up as a military dependent. My family moved whenever my father received a new duty assignment. Making friends was not something that came easily to me – mostly because I knew that in a short period of time, either we would move away or they would. I learned a lot of coping skills, such as walking or biking through the neighborhood on my own – and reading. A lot of reading. It was through reading stories, myths, legends, and history that I found my escape from people that didn’t want to accept me. And it was from those same books that I learned about developing my own style of who I am. In high school, I was considered to be the strange, weird kid that hung out with the “undesirables” of the school – the outcasts. Why? Because I found people who were interesting, intelligent, and not afraid to be themselves. Even when doing so subjected them to such unpleasant activities as “toilet-swirlies” (where you are dangled upside with your head in the bowl, which is then flushed). When I joined the United States Air Force, I spent my off-time answering messages and playing with folks on Bulletin Board Systems (BBSs). Some of those folks are still stead-fast friends of mine to this day. But that was considered “odd” behavior because I would spend hours calling several different BBSs every single day. It was through the BBSs that I found out that my spiritual beliefs had a name: “Paganism”. And embracing those beliefs – I was considered to be weird and strange within the military community. Overseas in Germany, I was accosted over my beliefs early in the morning (shortly after I had gotten off my shift at 12:15am) in the Post Office location – simply because I had been recognized from an article about Pagans that had been published in the Stars and Stripes. And the incidents have continued on into my later years…to be short and blunt about it – I am far more disinclined to believe in what others call “normal” – I am far more appropriately described as “just me.”

I understand what Mr. Moore is getting at. But I tend to put it in different words – which may come at cross-purposes to his point. I have said this to so many people over the last three-plus years. Both in the classroom, and outside of it. Just be yourself. If that makes you “weird” so be it. That’s someone else’s label. Embrace who you are. Particularly if you are young. I am nearly fifty — not quite old, but definitely not young. I have a fairly good idea of who I am – and I am still finding new ways to explore that. If people see that as marching to a different drummer…so be it. But I brought more than that to the show. I have a full orchestra. And I deal with that daily. Some people call it weird…I call it “me”. Either accept or reject me over it – I am perfectly fine with all of that. But to be honest, me being me is not going to help me to a position where I am standing on a stage accepting an award. That takes hard work – that’s what will get me to that point. Two loonies – spend them as you wish.

Being Afraid of Success…A Few Thoughts

Me in Dublin, TX - in front of the Dr. Pepper Bottling Companys located there
Me in Dublin, TX – in front of the Dr. Pepper Bottling Company located there

Over the past few months, I have been doing a lot of meditations and long-thought processes over who I am, where I am on my own Path in life, and why I am. Not exactly light topics to say the least. There are parts of my past that I am not very proud of.  The days of hard-drinking, trying to forget myself in a bottle.The manner in which I chose to separate myself from the United States Air Force — I could have done so far more elegantly than I did. The poor relationship I find myself in with my blood relatives – though the reasoning for it is very sound, and puts me in a far more positive place than the alternative would have.  There are parts of my Path in life that leave me very happy for what I achieved. The day I pinned on my Non-Commissioned Officer rank. When I graduated with my Bachelor’s degree – nineteen years after I finished high school next to last in my class’ overall GPA rankings. When I graduated with the first of my two Masters degrees, becoming the first member of my blood-related family to achieve a graduate degree.  But those are merely moments that help comprise who I am today.

Every morning that I wake up, I am a culmination of everything that has happened to that point.  Good, bad, indifferent. Each of those moments have helped me become the person I am today. And each of those moments help me mask who I am from the world around me. That’s right, there’s more to me underneath all of that – and that’s what I have been focused on for the past few months. So, let’s take a little look at a piece of all that which I feel needs to see the light of day. And its not something I am overly proud of.

Underneath all of the wrappings, underneath all of the various accomplishments that I have had – and underneath all of the failures I have achieved as well – is an individual that is frightened.  Scared to death of success.  I can hear some of the laughter arising from folks over that statement.  What the Nine Hells do I have to fear about being successful?  Doesn’t every person dream of achieving success at the things that they do? I know – it sounds like something completely stupid. Enough so, that I have told myself over the decades (I am nearly 50 ya’ll) that my fear of being successful was just my way of justifying failure.  And to be honest, there may actually be something to that.  Its a part of this that I have not yet fully explored – and am not sure I will ever truly know the answer before I pass beyond the veil. But it is there, and its something I live with constantly.

I hate being praised openly. It makes me extremely uncomfortable. I don’t have desires of being THE person in my company at anything. I have desires of being the anonymous face in the crowd that keeps things running and doesn’t get noticed for what is done. I am far more comfortable talking in terms of “team” than I am in terms of “me”. In today’s “me”-centered society – I realize that I am an outlier in the bell curve – so to speak. I am happiest when a member of my team – other than myself – is singled out for accolades and applause. I m extremely proud when that happens, and tend to be the biggest cheerleader of all during those moments. But when its just me, thrust into the white-hot spotlight, I have a tough time of it.

I hear from a lot of people that I have leadership qualities – and I agree, I do have that. However, I am not a jump out and charge forward type of leader.  I am the kind of leader that talks to people quietly, and steps forward WITH them, not in FRONT of them. Going forward means we step forward TOGETHER, not as individuals.

And yet, here I am – talking about this openly. Stepping out – in a slight manner of speaking – into the spotlight.  Well, of sorts.  The internet makes it easier to be somewhat anonymous. So my being ill-at-ease with this is lessened to a greater degree. I still get nervous when I do the podcast — I sometimes feel uncomfortable in front of the microphone on my computer – and all I am doing is just talking. Even in the classroom, I have felt somewhat twitchy standing in front of nearly thirty students – talking about computers, the internet, data, and databases.

So, I have sat for the last few months and thought about this.  I could stand up, pump my fist in the air, and proclaim that I am going to wipe the floor with this feeling!  I am going to kick its ass to the curb and move forward in a positive manner in my life! And while those words look great – the reality is that I would still have that feeling – being scared to succeed. Some may say that I have already managed to succeed just by writing this blog post. Perhaps that’s true. But I still have the fear of success.

There are tangible things, in my mind, to worry about with success.  Much of that comes from money. After all, in western society, we are taught from a young age that success and money go hand-in-hand. If we are successful at what we do – money gets thrown down upon us, like some ticker-tape parade that trumpets our triumphs to the world. But to be honest, that does not happen nearly as much as a lot of people think. People can be successful at what they do – and still receive a pittance of pay for it. Which lets me breathe a sigh of relief. I have no desire for large sums of money – I merely want enough to be comfortable. Able to pay my bills, groceries, gas, and have a little bit leftover to do other things with my spare time. I have no desire to live the life of a rich person – purchasing things that I have no need for. I just merely want to be able to afford what I need – and then a small amount more.  Nothing extravagant. Nothing outrageous. To me, that would be financial success, but that’s only part of the equation.

Perhaps its just me growing older, but I define success far differently than I used to.  Success is being able to take time off from my job – and head out into the woods for a weekend, where I can look up at the stars on a clear night. Success is being able to take trips to places I have always wanted to be – experience the Spirits of the Land there, and possibly meet with friends I have only talked with online. Success is just being who I am meant to be — and that has nothing to do with job status, or how much I get paid. And in thinking along those lines – I am not as scared of being successful.

To be honest, I will also be a little twitchy about meeting people who read my blogs and hear my podcast episodes, and describe themselves as “a fan”. Perhaps, I need to change my perception of that moment – and see it as an opportunity to have the person see themselves not as “my fan” – but rather as “my friend”. Sure, its a manner of semantics – a little word play, if you will – but in the end, I would rather have friends than fans – though people I meet could certain fall into both categories…that is if I wanted to play the “labels” game….


All in the Name of Greed and Profit

Not feeling all that well today, I took a sick day and have stayed home. In that time, I have sat and watched wretched movies (Van Helsing), and boring reality tv show after another…at least for the first few hours. The tv just ceases to have its former draw with me, and I stepped back to a favorite thing to do:  read. My choice of reading was driven a bit by one of the two History classes I am taking – the Dust Bowl, and Pre-Columbian United States’ History. The book I picked up was the one for the History side of the Dust Bowl class (its technically a Humanities class with a History, Soil Science, Literature, and Art History section embedded into it). One of the particular aspects that really spoke to me was the point that was made concerning the manner in which agriculture was treated by the government and the populace at hand during that time.

No, I’m not talking about GMO or governmental conspiracy garbage. The point was made that the farm was seen as a business. Single crop farming robbed the nutrients of the soil, because the farmer had to pay off debts that were incurred by purchasing newer, higher yield machinery by credit. The reason for the need for higher yield machinery was that the farmer had to work larger and larger acreage in order to compete on the marketplace. The higher yield crops – typical wheat and corn – produced a glut on the marketplace, which drove prices downward, creating a spiral or cascade effect on the farmer. Or, in the words of one of our four teachers:  “The American farmer was forced to farm the hell out of the land.”

Now, my farming thumb is as black as they come. I have tried my hand at crops such as jalapeños – a supposed “can’t miss” crop I was told.  After a whole Spring and Summer tending to my “crop” – I got two peppers. Out of ten plants. Yep, Farmer Tommy for sure!  Now, it may have something to do with the soil in my backyard or some such mess – the point is that I am not a Farmer of any magnitude. However, I certainly get the point – and it has more to do with my understanding of my world through Paganism more than it does through Agriculture Science. We must achieve a balance with the land, if we are going to hope to live from it. For me, my perspective comes from Animism with a dose of polytheism thrown in. Thus, finding balance with the land means finding balance with the Spirits of the Land and with the Gods that are in this region.  Yeah, I do hear folks saying that Animism and Polytheism shouldn’t mix and what not…that’s not my point, nor is it going to be a point going forward into the future. Its just the way that I – as one single individual – work with this.

A view of the plains to the west of Medicine Wheel in Wyoming
A view of the plains to the west of Medicine Wheel in Wyoming

Let’s try and face some concepts here as well, there are somewhere in the neighborhood of seven and a half billion people on the planet. And while some people live and eat better than others – I remember reading a WHO statistic somewhere that if we stopped all farming, hunting, fishing, gathering activities right now – that the current food levels would be enough to feed the entire world for about twenty days. I may be off a day or two in either direction on that number – but it is a sobering thought. Another sobering thought is that the amount of fresh water in the world is fairly low as well.  Here in the Texas region of the United States, we are entering into the double-digit arena of a drought. There are times when it doesn’t feel like a drought, but still the amount of rainfall we get here each year is substantially below what is normally expected. Droughts are a part of life around here – and they run in cycles. It winds up being an issue when it comes to things like feeding cattle, watering crops, and keeping the danger of wildfires down – though wildfires are a naturally occurring phenomenon as well.

I am not saying that trying to achieve balance with the land is going to be something that fixes things — there’s a lot more than just making peace with the local Gods that will need to be done.  But perhaps its something that would be a good start. ::shrug::  At least it seems like it would be a good start in my mind.  But there’s something else to remember…a warning of sorts.

Prior to the Dust Bowl, we – humans – farmed the Nine Hells out of the land, squeezing every possible nutrient we could from the land until it was nothing more than bare soil. That bare soil then rebelled against us, and created an environment that gave us the frightening experiences of the Dust Bowl (check out pictures of the Dust Storms that you can find on Google). We learned about soil conservation, and that we needed to plant in ways that helped keep the land in harmony. We learned about rotating crops to extract the nutrients we needed, which would also replace nutrients for other crops. But we didn’t learn the lesson.

Farmers planted heavily and based their entire harvest on single crop because that was where the money was to be had. In the last decade, we have turned towards a manner of extracting materials from deep within the earth, which help to fuel our vehicles, our economy, and essentially lubricates our lives. Hydraulic fracturing is occurring all over the world – a new methodology to pull nutrients from the ground in order to fuel our vehicles and lubricate our lives. Have we not already learned what happens when we farm and extract nutrients from our earth on a wide scale without an accounting for balance?? All in the name of greed and profit.

American Eagles Gold Mine Near Cripple Creek, CO
American Eagles Gold Mine Near Cripple Creek, CO

I have watched the Spirits of the Land in my area around Denton. For the most part, they ignore human beings, in much the same way that we ignore ants. At least, we ignore them until they intrude where they should not be and start doing things they shouldn’t – such as getting into our storage containers of sugar on our counters and pantries.  Then we get mad, get out the pesticides, and wage a fast war on them. As I watch the Spirits of the Land, and hear about the increasing small earthquakes that are happening as a result of what hydraulic fracturing is doing to the lands – I’m wondering when the pesticides will be released for us??


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

–Tommy /|\

Peering into the Flame – Thoughts on Paganism into the Future

Imbolc Retreat 2015 - photo by Amanda Godwin
Imbolc Retreat 2015 – photo by Amanda Godwin

What will our world look like in ten years?  Twenty?  Twenty-five?  One-hundred??  That’s really hard to say.  I am about as good at predicting the future as I am picking against the spread on National Football League games (I was .484 for this last season using a statistical model I created myself). But it was this very style of question that John Beckett asked during Hearthstone Grove’s Imbolc Retreat. He walked everyone through a guided vision/meditation and then asked for responses to questions.  He then utilized these question to extrapolate a perspective that he was trying to showcase in his talk.  It was quite effective, and absolutely fascinating. The responses were varied, and were helpful in
showcasing what John was aiming for.  But I want to take a few steps back…

First, I am glad John didn’t call on me to express what I had seen. At this point, my Dream Crows were in nearly every meditation that I had been doing – and this was still the case at this point. However, I have had close to a week to sit and think about what John had presented. Plus, my Dream Crows have subsided to a greater extent, but that’s for tomorrow’s blog post.


Wanting for the Future – Looking to the Past

To be honest, I don’t see much of a change to where we are right now in our Pagan communities over the next ten to fifteen years. Sure, there will be some groundwork (important groundwork) that gets laid down, but for the most part – I can see the Pagan communities remaining in local focus. And to be completely honest, I grok the desire of others to not only have a cohesive community with a wider focus, but also the desire for Paganism to come more to the forefront on the religious scene. There’s a lot more groundwork left to be laid there.

Falcon Circle at the USAF Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado

Back when I was in the United States military, Paganism was very much an underground aspect. Coming out openly usually hurt one’s chances for promotion, and sometimes provided strife between one’s self and their coworkers. I went through all of that when I came out openly at Carswell Air Force Base in 1987. When I was finally reassigned to Sembach Air Base in Germany in 1990 – I know that many of the people I worked with (hardcore Catholics and very aggressive Charismatic Christians) probably breathed a sigh of relief. In Kasierslautern, Germany I found more Pagans to talk with and spend time with. Most were Wiccans — and at this point, I had stepped away from Wicca and noted myself more as a Pagan (in reality, this was where my original steps into Animism came from – including me taking super long walks in the absolutely stunning forests there). The group that I was working with eventually managed to get status as a “Chapel sponsored group” which meant that we could hold religious ceremonies in Chapel controlled space.  That was a first in the United States military. This also happened to coincide with the time frame where the Department of Defense allowed the usage of the term “Pagan” on one’s dog-tags. At the Imbolc Retreat, I was able to talk with folks who have been in the United States military – and while these aspects are still in place, and a few more base commanders have relented to providing space for Pagan worshippers — not much has changed since I got out of the service in 1994.

Request for Waiver – Non-Chaplain Personnel Certification – 8 Dec 1992

Granted, the United States military is a closed environment – particularly on a social level.  Its members are not subject to the freedoms that we US citizens enjoy under the Constitution. They are governed under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which over-rules the Constitution for military members. But it is important to note, that very little progress has been made for active duty members in a little more than twenty years of time. Yes, there has been a lot of progress made on the front of grave markers and headstones for Pagans – as well as the formation of Open Circles in forward operating locations – when there is a military member willing to serve as the Lay Person.  And the military is most assuredly not the civilian populace in the United States.  (I know I am very slanted towards the United States societal aspects in this blog post — please remember, I can only speak for where I live).

But Progress is Progress, Right?

Yes, I agree that progress is progress. Baby steps forward are still steps forward. And those little steps forward mean that we need to be patient about that progress. After all, we are still the teetering toddler at the moment. A few steps forward, as we struggle to maintain our balance before we fall forwards on to our chests, or backwards onto our diapered butts. Then, we struggle to maintain balance as we stand and continue making our small steps forward. We must learn to walk before we can run.

So Mr. Smart-ass, how do we manage that?

That’s the tough one. We continue to manage our steps forward – mostly within our local communities. We have folks that are heavily invested in inter-faith relations and dialogue. And that’s a great thing. Until you run across the Pagan-folk that criticize the bad apples within a non-Pagan religious community, and than paint everyone in that community with a very broad brush.  To be fair, its a common tactic – and one that I hate to see utilized in any capacity against anyone.  For instance, there’s whacko politician Sarah Palin – who injects her version of religion into everything she espouses politically. She’s described herself as a “non-denominational Christian” — and yet, when she makes some whacky statement about the dominion of Christianity, I see people using that to paint over other Christians – as if every Christian beliefs precisely as she does. ::sigh:: And that’s just not true. And there are just as many instances as that with people taking some individual’s controversial statements that are made – and broadly painting that on to other members of that same person’s espoused belief system.

In my opinion, one of the first things we have to do is to stop the broad-brush painting attribution.  There’s an old saying I remember (just don’t know who said it)….

The cycle stops here…with me.

I’m by no means perfect, and just as guilty as anyone else of doing the broad-brush technique. But I really try my dead-level best to see people for what they are – individual people. No one is the construct of their own belief system – they are merely people. And people make mistakes.

What About Your Point on the Future? Where is the Progress?

True, let’s bring this back to the center point – where do I see Paganism in a series of time-line events. In ten years?  We are still making baby-steps at this point. There will be areas of improvement – progress if you will – but nothing so earth-shattering that Paganism will be challenging any of the Big Five (Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism). Twenty years? Even more progress, perhaps Paganism will begin to flower and grow to the point where we can walk as easily as a teen-aged kid or an adult. Fifty years?  A hundred years?  I’m not so sure. I would hope that the world would be far more open and inviting to various faiths. But when I look back through the jaundiced eye of History, I see wars fought on differences of religious perspective. Some of them are not that far into the rear-view mirror at the moment. I see a lot of people being bombastic about their beliefs and using high-handed tactics to try and be influential (Kirk Cameron, anyone?). Until attitudes like those are flushed into the background and treated as suspect, unhelpful, and injurious – I really see no reason to hope for the kind of progress we all would like to have.

Ursula Drawing Crows

From my perspective, Paganism is the perfect belief system for the world going forward. There are harms to the environment that we need to mend, and I believe that we can get the Spirits of the Land to help out – provided we can prove that we are no longer the harmful species we have become. I see the Gods being able to provide guidance and inspiration for everyone. But I am also cautioned by my own patron God that I am merely one person. My predictions of the future – at best – are myopic. I can only manage my life on this Path as I have before – greeting the Sun each morning with a cup of coffee in my hand, a song in my heart, and a smile on my face. Beyond that – I really don’t know until I have taken my steps down the Path for today.

–Tommy /|\

Somewhere Between Departure and Arrival – We All Changed

As I had posted previously, I went to an Imbolc Retreat that was hosted by Hearthstone Grove of the ADF. It took a bit of cajoling to get me to go — but the crows pushed and pushed until I finally could find no other reason to say no.  And thus I went.  And had a lot of fun.  And learned a lot about myself.

Was i uncomfortable?  A little bit.  I only knew one person at this event in a face-to-face context. Beyond that, I only knew two others via an online context. The rest were completely unknowns to me. Which forced me way out of my normal comfort zone. I mean, way way out of my comfort zone. Yet, everyone was not only kind and open – but there were a lot of folks that were a ton of fun to talk with.  Good thing for me:  I’m good at remembering faces.  Bad thing for me:  I am terrible at remembering names.  Nonetheless, it took me about a full day to be a little more at ease with folks, probably one of the worst side effects of being a Solo Practitioner.

There were a few rituals around the fire, and each had its own fascination for me. And one moment of anxiety as well – providing an offering, which including drinking from a horn. Each and every time, I abstained – typically holding the horn up and towards the fire in a silent gesture before handing it on to the next person. I also never approached the fire with an offering either. Each time, it didn’t feel like the “right” way for me to do so. So instead of providing an empty offering or taking a pull from a drinking horn with nothing more to say than “thanks for having me here” — I decided that it was better to not do so.

My Backyard Stone CircleHowever, each morning I rose just before the sunrise and managed to stand out while the sun rose up over the horizon. So as not to make too much noise up in the main house, I didn’t get my first cup of coffee until somewhere close to an hour later. It was here that I made my offerings – quietly, and just at the edge of the buildings. The first morning (Saturday), I had a bit of a biscuit in my pocket – leftovers from breakfast on the road on Friday. As the Sun peeked through the morning cloud cover, I crushed the biscuit in my hand and scattered the crumbs in the area directly behind the bunk house, offering my silent thanks to the Gods and my Crows for pushing me to be there. The second morning (Sunday), I managed to get a cup of coffee shortly after sunrise (more people were up early at this point) – and poured the last of the cup into the grass near the same area – again providing my silent thanks to the Gods for the start of a new day. It seemed a little more appropriate for me – but I have to remind myself, I am a Solo Practitioner.  Quiet little rites and moments like this are a daily part of my practice.

Aside from being able to participate in a ritual that I had never seen before — I was part of the awesome energy that was raised during each one. I also managed to understand a few of the personalities that had driven from their homes to come out into the Texas hill country to give homage to Brigid. And driving home that early Sunday just before noon, I realized that this was the one thing that made this very special – and it was mentioned during the opening ritual. We came here – some of us as strangers – to give homage to the Gods, particularly Brigid. And when everything was over, we left as individuals that had bonded together during that time. Even now, a week later, I still feel a lot of that bonded energy each morning that I wake up and step out into my backyard to greet the morning Sun with a cup of coffee in one hand, and a handful of birdseed in the other for the Crows and the Spirits of the Land.

I sit here in my office, typing on a keyboard, looking at the screen of my iMac — and I remember the feelings of each evening and night. Talking with people that were new to me on a Friday – and when I left on that Sunday – it was like leaving old friends. Yes, there was magick in that weekend – some of it was even raised in the circles in ritual. Much more of it was raised in our hearts and souls.  And its that magick that I will be seeking – as I step out of the shadows of my Solo world…  ::Raising coffee cup::  Slainte!  I arrived as myself, and left as myself – and somewhere between arrival and departure – the fellowship of this group of people has changed me, and dare I say — it has changed all of us, for the better.

–Tommy /|\


ADF Hearthstone Imbolc Retreat – and Just Doing It….

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

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

And Still the Crows Came

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

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

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

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

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

And Then There Was That One Moment….

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

There Was a Lot More Too…

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

Looking Backwards and Forwards…

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



Build It or Walk In It?? – a Personal Perspective on Pagan Temples

Lately, there’s been a lot in my news feeds about statuary and temples that are of interest to many in the Pagan community. There has been discussion concerning a stolen statue of Manannán Mac Lír which was located at a viewing site on Binevenagh mountain in County Londonderry in Ireland. Some view the theft as a hate crime, because of a wooden cross and a message of “You shall have no other Gods before Me” that were left at the site. That will eventually lead to another post concerning ‘hate crimes’ – but that’s another topic for another time. There has also been some discussion on the potential creation of a Pagan temple – depending on who and where you read, the reasoning is different. Let’s just say that the gist is that there is some ground-swell concerning such a creation. Needless to say, the culmination of both topics was intriguing enough for me to click links and read the various articles – as well as some of the comments left behind.

Temples v. Nature

Some of the sentiments that made the trail of comments related that there was no need for a Pagan temple.  Pagans are – for the most part – worshippers of Nature; therefore, the “natural” world is where worship should be. On the opposite side of that spectrum were the folks who noted that living in the cities, “natural” spaces were hard to come by. Plus, even when you are out in the “natural” areas, its rather difficult to meet folks of a like mind. Obviously, the notation was that a physical temple would solve both of these issues. Perhaps it might, perhaps it might not — that’s a bit difficult for me to speculate on. But I see merit in both sides of that so-called “argument”.

Building Requires a Lot

One aspect that I thought was interesting was the perspective that building a temple would require a lot of capital, time, and resources. After all, to build a temple will require land, permits from the city, other legal issues (such as taxation relief), and most of all – common public support. In other words, the Pagan community – as a whole – would have to stop some of its in-fighting and rally around the cause, and then put up on the issue that will require the most need – funding. Both areas, in my opinion, would be quite difficult to do on a large-scale economy within the wider-arching Pagan community. However, all of this is very do-able on a smaller scale. As an example, look at Circle Sanctuary. Created by a specific group of Wiccans, the funding started on a small-scale effort – and through the desire to be inclusive with the wider Pagan community, the funding has been able to expand to a greater degree to allow further development of the land there. Going forward, I would tend to believe that this type of model – where a smaller group of Pagans banded together in a small-scale vision to purchase land and develop a Pagan-oriented sanctuary – would be most likely to succeed. Of course, this means having not only a small-scale vision, but also have a vision going into the deeper future. And that deeper vision would have top be malleable enough to change and potentially morph into something that may not resemble the current long-range vision. That, in my opinion, winds up being one of the tougher aspects – having a long-term vision and willing to let that vision go and grow in directions that may not have been foreseeable in those earnest beginnings. That leaves the question of capital…

In the End – It IS the Money

I dislike money. Not so much that I think the world should do without it. But I do dislike the greed and over-consumerism that is so lately associated with it. And let’s face it, the wider-based Pagan community is not really the richest folk in the entire world. Like anyone else, we tend to be folks who are working towards making a living in whatever societal aspect that we are in. We all tend to work forty hours -sometimes more – a week at whatever job we have. We all have bills to pay.  We all have a certain amount of money left over with which to purchase items that we would like to have – as opposed to the items that we have to purchase because we need them to survive. In other words, we all have expenses that we must pay. Whatever is left at the end of each pay cycle is typically not much. Sometimes, we have to hold over certain bills to the next pay cycle because the money ran out. That’s no different than anyone else living in today’s ever tightening middle-class and upper-lower class. Thus, the folks we hope to get funding from for projects such as temple building…well…its not really there for the most part. Thus, if one endeavors to build a temple or purchase land where a temple could be built – its going to take a lot of patience. The cash isn’t going to flow in like a massive tidal wave – rather its likely to be a small trickle, which would need to be collected a bit at a time.

But Wait!  There’s More….

I can already hear some of the clamoring that may come about.

Tommy is not for a Temple because he prefers to be within Nature.

Tommy lacks an understanding of what tradition really means.

On the first count, it is true.  I do consider the outdoors as my Temple. However, my personal preference does not mean that I sit back and believe any effort placed towards the creation and erection of a Temple to be foolhardy or foolish. In fact, I believe that such efforts are noble, and the causes behind these are to be championed to the best of the abilities of the individuals that comprise the wider-arching Pagan community. On the second count, I will merely point out that I do not stand on “tradition” in any sense of the word — but I do not discount it as something to be spit on and trampled at every step, either. For me to be dismissive of the desires of others to achieve a Temple of any sort, merely flies in the face of who I am. I may disagree with the notion that a Temple is a necessary thing; that the wider-arching Pagan community will dissolve into nothingness and serve no useful purpose (that is the other extreme of that coin), but that does not mean that I have no support to throw into that arena. It simply means that my support will not have the same fervor or pitch that others may have. And if my perspective is to be articulated as “dismissive” simply because I do not shout at the same volume or length of time that others do – then there is nothing more I can do to convince someone otherwise.

My temple is the outdoors…if only I lived in or near a forest…then I would be able to walk in my version of the Cathedral of Notre Dame on a daily basis. But I am thankful for the ability to walk within the natural elements that exist in my little suburban corner of the DFW metromess…

My Backyard Stone Circle

Being Between the Cracks

Over the past few weeks, I have been somewhat accepted into the fabric of my workplace. Coming out of the adjunct faculty pool, I am treated with some degree of suspicion by those in the administrative group – and now that I have been accepted into a position within the administrative side of things, I am treated with suspicion by my former compadres in the faculty base. In essence, I have found myself to be smack in the middle between the two groups – favored by neither, and treated as an outsider. However, that is perfectly “a-ok” for me. Its a position I have found myself in through a lot of my life, and I have developed quite the set of coping skills in dealing with it.

In high school, my long hair ostracized me from many of my peers. My lack of desire for psychedelics removed me from the base of peers that the “social norm” placed me into on the basis of hair length. I learned earlier on that it was just better to let everyone else make their own assumptions about me – and continue on with my daily routines. Eventually, I found others who had fallen through the social cracks and creases and bonded with them. We were such a mis-matched group of people. Long haired philosophers reading Frost and Emerson (me) mingling with others that could have been pried straight from 1980s high school movies such as “Pretty in Pink” and “The Breakfast Club” — we certainly did not “look” like we belonged together.

After high school, I found my way into the United States Air Force, where I again found myself hanging between the various “social” arenas. This was also the time that I “discovered” Paganism, and began to define aspects that are the foundations of who I have become today, at forty-nine years of age. Once again, I let opinions of me float over my head, and wash off of my shoulders. There was even a moment where I was purposely placed on a late-night shift with three evangelical Christians. My guess was that it was done to make me feel “uncomfortable” and eventually “act out” (I was known then – as I am now – to have a temper.  I have far better control of it today then I did then). It took me six months, but I made friends with the people I was working with. I even showed them that a Pagan could come to a Christian church and not freak out.

Being in that ‘in between” space is something I have also found myself over my entire life. That square peg set down next to the round hole. Being in the in-between spaces is something I have managed within the Pagan community. In a sense, it can get lonely in that in-between space – that is until you come across others who have managed to wiggle between the floorboards. Then, you get to meet some of the most intriguing people you have ever had the chance to be around.

Sure, I have had the labels of “weird” and “strange” put around my neck. So what? If that’s the way people want to describe me, I’m happy to wear that label. I have had other labels applied to me as well. Geek, nerd, odd, outcast. But these are all just words. However someone wishes to describe me – the end result is that I am still just me. There will always be folks who can’t handle or deal with who I am because I don’t fit their paradigm. Maybe they see too much of themselves in me and its part of who they are trying to get away from. Or maybe they don’t see enough of me in who they are and thus reject me as not being “normal” by their definitions. Who knows?  Who cares?  As I said – I have been called many things. And while words can be hurtful – its far easier to remind myself that the sting from words hurts far less and far shorter than being clubbed upside the head by a hand, fist, foot, boot, rock, baseball bat…. Its not the insult or the intent that matters (for me)…its the intent behind the action that follows those words that matters more. Thankfully, I’ve not had to deal with that too much. Thankfully for those mouthing the insults, that is.

Nous Sommes du Soleil – Some Thoughts on Ritual

Many people know my aversion to most things “ritual” in form. And many of those folks are even more puzzled when they discover that I have my own rituals – my morning greeting of the sun (it doesn’t always happen, but I do make a concerted effort), my evening send-off of the sun, and my greeting to the moon.  Yes Virginia, Tommy does have regular rituals in his life…

My Morning Ritual (the abbreviated version)

Perhaps the one ritual I talk about the most is my morning ritual of greeting the sun. Back IMG_2867when I was teaching as an adjunct professor, I had plenty of time to make this into a daily ritual.  I would stand outside by my little stone circle, and watch the eastern horizon as the sun slowly crawled up over the horizon. There’s nothing overly special about it. I would stand next to the stone circle, a fresh cup of coffee in my hand, and greet the morning sun with the Druid’s Prayer for Peace.

Grant, O Great Spirit/Goddess/God/Holy Ones, Thy Protection;
And in protection, strength;
And in strength, understanding;
And in understanding, knowledge;
And in knowledge, the knowledge of justice;
And in the knowledge of justice, the love of it;
And in that love, the love of all existences;
And in the love of all existences,
the love of Great Spirit/Goddess/God/Holy Ones/the Earth our mother, and all goodness.

(Druid Prayer & Devotion)

In the minds of a lot of people (including myself at one time), there’s the terror of having to memorize all of this word for word. The reality is that I have rarely said this the same way twice. I have aspects of this memorized, but the wording as I speak it is rarely the same. To be frankly honest, my memory is not that good. And to be even more blunt, I actually like that I can’t remember stuff like this word for word.

When Ritual Gets Boring (for me)

I remember back in the 7th grade, we did a play about the American Revolutionary War. I went to private schools as a child (a whole different blog post that may never get written) because my parents thought I got a “better” education there. Our class was very small, about fourteen kids in all, and each of us had a compulsory role in the little play. Mine was to be the rebellious son of one of the village leaders, and I was opposed to the little colony village seeking independence from the crown. The term in the play that was used to describe me was that I was a Tory. We practice the play in Government/History class every day. In three weeks, I had my lines memorized (and I had the lion’s share of lines) to the point that I could recite my part while looking out the window. And I honestly was so bored, I spent a lot of time looking out the window. One afternoon, during the recitation, I decided to start playing with the lines a little bit….tweaking them if you will. I had grown up in Europe, and was exposed to the English lifestyle quite a bit. So, I adopted the mannerisms of some of the young adults I had watched from a distance during the late 1970s and early 1980s. Many of the people I was attempting to emulate were involved in the 1981 Brixton Riot.  For the most part, I was ignored, because I was just a “Yank’s kid.” But I remember the pent-up anger and frustration of people living in the area during those times. So I utilized that, along with a terrible Eliza Doolittle cockney accent to help make the character a little more “interesting.” This did nothing to make me “popular” with my peers, since they resented me changing things up from what was written on the paper.

Thinking forward now, I can see where my problem with ritual is – when it becomes rote, habitual, almost mechanical in nature – it loses its touch with me. Ritual should – in my opinion – flow, live, breathe, evolve. There’s a framework that ritual should be held to, but it should be basic and unobtrusive – ready for new things to be added, and aspects that are not entirely relevant to the moment to be removed and packed away for another day. That day might be next year, it might be twenty years down the road — but its always available to be re-added.

Perhaps, this is the reason that I am constantly refashioning the podcast that I do. I am always afraid that the podcast will not have relevant information or formatting for the listeners, and I am equally afraid that it will become a stiff, unbending format that makes doing the show into a chore of sorts. That’s honestly when I know its time to close down the podcast for good and “pod-fade” into the woodwork – when it becomes a chore.

This probably explains my fascination with musical artists like the Grateful Dead, Ratdog, Phish, Widespread Panic and others. None of them play the same performance twice. Every show is a unique entity, where they utilize songs as frameworks to try new things against. As an aside, about ten years back, I went to a Styx show here in Dallas. This was the first tour dates with Dennis DeYoung no longer in the band. When the band played “Too Much Time on My Hands”, I found that I knew all the interspersing dialogue in-between the lyrics — because they were exactly the same as it was on their live album – right down to Tommy Shaw‘s maniacal giggle in the middle of the song. It was a clearly disappointing moment for me. I was expecting the song to somewhat resemble that which was already on their studio recording. What I wasn’t expecting was a note-for-note, word-for-word effigy of a previous live recording. I walked away from that concert with far less respect for a band that had punctuated much of my late teen years growing up.

Spicing It Up

But there is a point of caution to all of this. “Change for the sake of change” is never a good mantra to uphold. Sometimes, changing things up just to be “different” can make something untenable, even somewhat forgettable. I had a report that I had given to my boss at the beginning of my employment in my new job. I had created the report of a need to quench a question I had asked myself. From that, grew a report that I turned over to him. He then asked for other data points to be added to it. As I dug in the system to get this information, I found other information that I added to the report to spice up the information a bit more. The result was a report that I was proud of, but had so much data contained within it that it become an overwhelming tsunami of data, rather than a useful analysis tool. I made changes simply for the sake of making changes – which resulted in something that became unusable. Be sure that you need to make the change to whatever ritual you are looking to alter and not because you want something “different”.

I’m a fan of impromptu ritual. I have been known, on many of my trips to various scared site locations here in the United States over the past few years, to stop and spent time in impromptu ritual or devotion. I started carrying tobacco (loose leaf) during these trips – not because I smoke (I hate smoking being around me) but because I want something to offer back to the Spirits of the Land and the Ancestors that are there but somewhat forgotten. And when I don’t have tobacco with me, I usually carry a sandwich baggie full of birdseed for the same reason. I toss seeds in the four cardinal directions, and pour a small bit of water in each direction as well. Then I sit or stand – reciting the Druid’s Prayer for Peace — either out loud or silently in my mind. Whichever seems more appropriate. And as I noted, the words are hardly ever the same. Nor is the manner in which I make my offerings to the four directions. Nor is the manner in which I try to connect to the Spirits or Ancestors. Mostly because I cannot remember the exact words or gestures, but also because each of them are different. Just as each moment is unique and different. Viva la’ difference! N’est-ce pas?

A Riff on the Apolitical Blues

A touch on the cold side here in Texas.  It was hovering right around the freezing mark when I got up. Growing up in Europe, this type of weather is a welcome one compared to what the rest of winter would normally bring. Here in Texas, at a far closer location to the equatorial zone, temperatures like this are consideration for parkas. For me, this is weather for a hoodie. Just a difference in experiencing the world – neither is correct or incorrect, except in relation to the individual expressing it.

Its a similar fashion to politics. Over the past week-plus, I’ve noticed that people are starting to gear into the political zone. Of course, we are less than two years away from a Presidential election cycle here in the United States, which means its almost time for the typical political season. Much like Texans tend to dislike cold weather, I dislike the political season.

I’ve never been much of a political animal. During the first Presidential election that Barack Obama was elected, I got caught up in some of the political hype. It was a polarizing event, from which the United States still has not completely recovered.  My supposition is that it goes much further back then the first election of President Obama, but that’s neither here nor there – just merely an observation.

Republic, Liberal, Independent, Conservative, Democrat

Nearly twelve years ago, if I had been asked for a political affiliation, I most likely would have replied that I was a “Libertarian” – though that term is not a true indication of where I sit in the political spectrum. I like the Libertarian principle of smaller, less restrictive government – but I can see where some restrictive governmental legislation may be necessary. These days, when I am asked where my political beliefs fall – I reply that I am an “unaffiliated voter”. In Texas, you declare your political allegiance in the voting mechanisms by voting in your party’s primary election. Thus, I eschew any steps in that direction – I completely ignore the primary elections. This keeps me firmly in the camp of the unaffiliated status.

I also tend to not get involved in the lengthy “talks” that occur in Facebook (and other social media platforms) over this candidate or that politician or these other party members’ choices. Just not something I spend hours of thought and energy on.  I have plenty of other things to put that into.

Like What??

I actually had someone at work respond to me this way not that long ago. If I didn’t care about politics, what did I care about?  I care about stopping environmental destruction, rebuilding the environmental infrastructure that we have destroyed and damaged, spending my time in the environment, and as much as it pains me to think about it – doing my job to the best of my ability. Yeah, it means that I bend slightly to the almighty dollar. Without it, I can’t survive. I have a house payment, I need to purchase food, clothing, and keep my vehicle in proper shape so that I can get to work. But there’s other things I need to spend more time on.  Keeping myself in better shape. I’m nearly 50 now (gasp!) and I’m not nearly in the shape I was three years ago. I have issues with my left shoulder, and my compensation for those issues is starting to take its toll on my right shoulder. I have diabetes that I need to take better care of. Plus, there’s other things to focus on.

In a little less than a year, I will be taking a trip to England. I would like to take another trip to Medicine Wheel in Wyoming and spend more than a half hour there. I want to take the time for some meditation, along with a prayer walk along the edges. I want to take another trip to Wounded Knee, and (again) spend more than a half hour there. Plus, I miss the mountains of Colorado (and will remedy that in April of this year). My focus is on taking the journeys that are set to me in my dreams and visions. And these are only some of the places that have come to me.

Honestly, I would rather spend my time focusing on what I can do for my environment, along with what journeys get placed before my feet than worrying about which political party has been able to curry enough favor from the American voter to gain a Congressional majority. I get that there are people that find politics to be a wonderful topic to sink their teeth into, and that many others enjoy the rigor that debate brings for them. The only thing that truly astonishes me in all of those “debates” is when people get butt-hurt when someone pops up with a perspective that they think denigrates their own. Its almost as if we’re waiting for something to disagree and argue about – and look for any small point to achieve with that.  That, however, is a point for another time….

–Tommy /|\

Episode 008 – Jan2015 – New Year, New Start

Welcome to the new calendar year!  Today’s show is a little discussion on some of the changes that are coming in the new year, along with a few other little notes while ramblin’ on over here and there. The coming year holds a lot of new surprises – particularly with a new segment I have been wanting to do for some time – Book Reviews. Feb 2015 will be the first installment of this segment…and I’m quite excited about it. I am also hoping to get some of the Moon Books authors to do short little interviews on some of their works and discuss some of their approaches to their own Spiritual practices. Yep, that’s an awful lot to add into the show, but I am excited to be doing so – as well as giving the show a little more focus than I did in the past year (Bad podcast host! Bad, bad!). Musical feature is Soul Quest performed by Jim Faupel and Paul Newman.  Both are incredible artists in their own right – together they make a powerful combination!  Both artists’ information is listed here – be sure to help support your independent Pagan artists!  You like what you hear?  Buy their music so that they can keep putting out more awesome albums in the future!

See you all around the 15th of February with the newest episode installment – with all new features, and more fun!  Ta!

Jim Faupel’s webpage is located at:  His music can be purchased at

Paul Newman’s website is located at: His music can be purchased at (his album Passing Fayre is uber fantastic!!)


Looking Back, Looking Forward…Forgot to Check the Traffic Before Getting Into the Crosswalk

Well, this is it folks.  What?  No, I’m not closing up shop on the blog and the podcast.  No, I’m not packing my bags and leaving the internet.  Hey!  Don’t look so disappointed about that!

Seriously though – this is really the end of the 2014 calendar year. The 2015 calendar year is coming forward in a steady push now. For some people, there’s some trepidation involved with this. Stepping into the unknown, seeing a new Path laid before you, and not knowing what type of terrain you are going to be walking. For others, including myself, its the excitement of what’s yet to come.

What is Yet to Come – Podcast and Blog

So, yes, there are changes coming. The podcast and the blog will share a common theme. I will be working towards exploring who I am and what I believe, exploring that in terms of my Druidry and Paganism without utilizing a Christian backdrop to compare/contrast everything upon. All of this comes directly from a post on Under the Ancient Oaks, John Beckett‘s blog over at Patheos.

Its easy to understand how that will play out here on the blog. On the podcast, I will attempt to get interviews with folks on various topics, but every podcast episode will have a short bit where I talk a bit more about aspects of my beliefs. The idea is not to create a “how-to” segment, but rather a “this is how I do it” segment, and to make sure the segment is no longer than fifteen minutes whenever I have an interview lined up on the show.

There will be other additions. Over the latter half of this year, my life has been turned upside-down with a new job that has an element of two hours of driving (an hour to and hour back). That’s been a bit of a change, and somewhat of a hurdle, as I try to change the way I handle other aspects of my life (my walks, my meditations) into it. Its also bit into my reading a little more than I cared for. However, I have started reading more via my Kindle – and have started to amass a decent Pagan book collection there. As I finish these books, I will include a segment on both the podcast and here at the blog concerning the books I read. These authors work hard on their works – and while I have a small readership and listenership — the best thing I can do for these folks is to showcase their hard work.

The last addition is something I have been toying with over the last two years – a Google-Chat Hangout. Just an hour or so video hangout – once a month – where the topics are completely wide open. I’m not the Shell Answer Man…but I figure it would be fun to have a place online where folks could come and talk about…whatever. Pagan topics, sports topics, whatever is happening topics…anything. And if I just sit and stare at a blank screen for an hour…so be it. LOL

Stopping and Looking Back

So, let’s take a short look backwards into 2014. I was a bad podcaster. For the coming calendar year of 2015 – my goal is to produce more than twelve episodes for the year. I came nowhere close to managing that in 2014. My bad — ::holding out wrist to be slapped:: . But I did manage to get two interviews into the space – one with John Beckett, and a second one with Troy Young, who was one of the folks I worked with over the last two years on the Pagan Pride Day project. I thoroughly enjoyed having Troy on the show – as he dropped by the house for that interview. While I did not finish the year working with the Pagan Pride Day folks, I did attend their event as a guest. They did a wonderful job – and it was also a lot of fun to see some friends that I had not had the chance to be around for some time. This coming year, I am making plans to attend the Austin Pagan Pride Day event – and possibly the Houston event as well. Perhaps, I might make it into Oklahoma for theirs as well. It all depends on how my work schedule shakes out for the coming year.

And then there are all the new friends and people I have had the pleasure of meeting. So many people. I’m not even going to do the injustice of naming names – I’ll just say that I am excited about the Pagans that I have been meeting. Very open-minded people who love to laugh and talk! And good Gods can some of these folk talk!! I am just amazed at the folks I get to meet – from the outgoing and open to the very shy and all personalities in between.

What is Yet to Come – What I Already Have Scheduled

The coming year will bring some interesting moments for me. Right around this current time frame (late December, early January) in 2015/2016 – I will be taking a trip with the college I work for. That trip will be a tourist jaunt to Scotland and into England. I have already confirmed the time frame and have started paying for the trip at this point. So, I will be headed back to England for the first time since the early 1990s. I know I will be in for a major shock at the differences from the last time I was there. There are already plans to attempt to make it to Glastonbury for a Summer Solstice in 2018. But that’s just a ways off…

Because my job affords me vacation time, and I have a set time frame of work — I will be able to attend more gatherings. One of these is OBOD‘s Gulf Coast Gathering this coming March in Louisiana. This will be the first time I will be around a large number of OBOD folk, so I have a slight bit of nervousness. Plus, I get the chance to meet Brendan Myers. This past year provided me with a wonderful moment with him. I had purchased a copy of his “Dangerous Religion” through an online used book seller. When I received the book, it had an inscription that seemed somewhat personal, and had “Brendan” as the signature. I contacted Brendan and asked if the inscription was his, and if he wanted the book back. He noted that it was his, and graciously offered another book title in return (which was unnecessary, but I gladly accepted). I’m looking forward to meeting him face-to-face and see if he remembers the transaction. 🙂 I was also hoping to make Pantheacon this year as well, however, once the England trip arose – the funds were quickly diverted to that. So perhaps next year. I do have my sights set on Gaia Gathering in 2016, and a possible journey to Fairie Worlds as well. Again, it matters how the schedule shakes out and how funds are at that time.

And So Ends the Calendar Year

…and with that, you have my look backwards and forwards. It looks a little hectic (it is!), but there’s a measure of excitement for me as well. I still have my Druidry studies to move through – now with a more excited and dedicated pace (thanks Cat!). I hope that you have a wonderful step through the veil of the calendar year – and find your feet firmly on your Path – whatever it may be. I look forward to what this new calendar year is about to provide….

My Backyard Stone Circle
My Backyard Stone Circle

The Sunrise – the Start of My Day

If you have read this blog for any amount of time – or even sat down and talked with me

Sunset in Summer 2014 at Disney's Epcot in Florida.
Sunset in Summer 2014 at Disney’s Epcot in Florida.

face-to-face – you probably already know how much I adore sunrises and sunsets. I tend to have quite a few pictures of them in my photo collection – some of which I have taken myself. My morning start is never complete until I have watched the sunrise – even when its obscured by clouds. Every evening, I try to be in a place to view the sunset – though with my job, that’s not always possible.

Why Sunrises?

Call me a hopeless romantic, or as I’ve stated before – perhaps I just fart rainbows. But that moment of time, when the world starts to turn from darkness to light is an extremely magickal moment for me. There’s a certain still in the air, if you sit still you can hear the birds calling out to one another – and sometimes you can hear animals nearby. Of course, a lot of this is also punctuated by cars driving past carrying their human cargo to office destinations – if you happen to live in an urban area like I do.

Sunset over the Rocky Mountains
Sunset over the Rocky Mountains

I take a few little travels from location to location across the United States (and later in 2015 across the pond to England and Scotland). Everywhere I have gone, I have tried my best to see the sunrise and/or sunset where I have been. The most serene sunrise I have experienced was at a cabin just south of Whitefish, Montana on my recent trip to Glacier National Park. Even though I was in a semi-suburban area, the quiet of the morning was very much in effect. The first morning there, the grass was covered in dew, as the sun came up over the horizon. Nearby, in the field across the street – two young deer were cautiously moving through the brush, having their morning meal. I sat on the porch of the house, and drank my coffee in silence. Taking in all that I felt around me. Nearby, I could feel the presence of a local Kami, but as with most Kami – it paid little notice to my presence.

For me, on a Spiritual level, sunrises are the promise of the start to a new day. Everything that happened the day before is pulled back – and a new canvas for the day is placed on the easel. What gets placed on it, depends on you, and the environment around you. When the sun goes down, you can look upon the day’s “masterpiece” and see the story of the day unfold before your eyes. Of course, not everyone sees things from that perspective – but this certainly works for me.

Here I am walking back from a vantage point, where I tried to get a picture of the morning sunrise.  I had the wrong lens for the shot - so the picture did not come out the way I had hoped.
Here I am walking back from a vantage point, where I tried to get a picture of the morning sunrise. I had the wrong lens for the shot – so the picture did not come out the way I had hoped.

Have you ever considered your day from point to point? I look at my days from sunrise to sunset and from sunrise to sunrise. Perhaps you have different points that define the day for you. Try it out – look at your day near the end of it….right before you go to sleep. Think about what the day has brought for you – how your role was played across the stage that was presented to you. Folks have asked what I typically write in my daily journals. This is what takes up the majority of those pages for me. And reading back on them, I always find a little piece of the daily puzzle that I had noted, but never expounded upon.

Hope your morning started as good as mine did today!! Time for another cup of coffee….

Part Three: Two Halves Make a Whole…My First Circuit on Contemplative Druidry and Practical Druidry

As I sit here  drinking a cup of coffee and listening to the Rush album “Signals“, I am trying to figure out how to write this third part on my initial look into the two terms “Contemplative Druidry” and “Practical Druidry”. Its really hard to parse two concepts that you have just started looking at in a critical manner. Some of the concepts contained within each, I already know and have a good understanding of – just under different names. Other aspects…well, they are just as foreign as anyone could possibly make them for me. But that’s generally the mix of things with any critical study I’ve ever undertaken. Rarely do I find something that I understand completely, but just have different bits of terminology for. And even more rare is the time frame where I run across something that doesn’t correlate to anything I already understand to some degree. So, in essence I am right where I usually start.

I see aspects of both concepts in my daily practices at this time. As I listen to “Subdivisions” its occurring to me that taking what I understand and dividing it into pieces is precisely what this seems to be doing. In this manner, I can spend more time with each respective section doing what I manage best:  turning it over and over, examining each respective corner, testing it with pressure from my fingers, smelling the scents and odors that emanate from it – generally bringing all my senses into play. Or as a former High Priestess of mine used to say, “getting to know it intimately.”

I have read some folks online who have discussed this as a major dividing line between the types of Druids that are out there. That there is this manner of discerning the type of Druid one will be by which area one embraces the most. I just cannot see that. Yes, these are two very distinctive and different parts of Druidry practice, but taken apart from one another – its almost as if you have split one thing into two halves that really need one  another to operate correctly. A sort of Yin and Yang principle, if one can forgive the mixing of philosophies. Or as Merlin states in the movie “Excalibur“:  “Good and evil, there never is one without the other.” There is the balance…and between these two areas of Druidry, I can see a balance that is achievable.

It is interesting (at least to me), to note that I am now undertaking another area of study within Druidry.  I have the OBOD Bardic course that I have been trundling along for some time.  I am always backtracking my steps, and finding something I missed the first time through. I am also undertaking a Druidry course with Cat Treadwell, which has opened my eyes to so many news of seeing things – as well as enforcing so many other practices that I already have. And now, I find myself intrigued by the mystery of Practical Druidry and Contemplative Druidry. Lots of things to study, lots of things to practice, lots of areas to think and practice. Perhaps this is what is meant by “diving deep” into a topic. I am intrigued by where I will eventually come up for air.

I know that some may perceive this Part III as an ending.  But I am not closing the book, so to speak, on this topic. This is merely my first circuit around the topic. There’s a lot more walking, a lot more studying, a lot more tasting and testing, a lot more touching and feeling that is left to do. This little three part post is merely an acknowledgement and record of how I am starting down this Path of thought and study. Other will approach it from a different perspective and/or direction. As I am fond of saying:  “‘Natch!”  My shorthand in written and verbal communication for “Naturally”. Its only natural that others will approach this in a different manner or from a different perspective…we are all unique people.  We all see the world differently.  We all react to stimuli differently – even if our reactions can be classified as similar.  And that’s a thought for another time….

Yes, I spend a lot of time reading - even when I go to the beach
Yes, I spend a lot of time reading – even when I go to the beach  /|\

Contemplative Druidry – My Initial Steps (Part II)

Normally, I do not take this long between Parts One and Two of a series of posts.  Unfortunately, Life does have a habit of rearing its head when least expected. Nonetheless, time to move forward with the next steps in this little journey.

I started my little foray into the arena of Practical Druidry versus Contemplative Druidry with the first post a few days back. I wandered a bit through the paths and game-trails of Practical Druidry – knowing that I was only scratching the surface of the topic. And while I found some of the terminology to be somewhat strange and curious, the underlying concepts were extremely familiar to me. Much like when you hear the strains of a piece of music, and you cannot quite place a finger on the artist, much less the title — but you know you have heard it before. I know that my three little posts will resemble something close to the classic yellow post-it notes, which permeate the edges of my monitor – small signposts meant to jar my memory on a topic rather than completely inform me of its content. However, to this point, these three little post-it notes mark the moment where I take a few deep breaths before I dive deep under the water. Yes, I will be diving deeper into the topics as I move along past these three posts.

Now, Contemplative Druidry is something I am a bit more familiar with. Or I should rather say I am more familiar with the techniques/tools utilized in the practice of Contemplative Druidry. My understanding here is that Contemplative Druidry is the practice of reasoned study and thought towards the meanings and connections of the world around us through meditation, group/individual study/discussion, and mindfulness of the origins of the things we utilize. Meditation is something I have spent a lot of my spiritual utilizing – as a tool for clearing my mind, as a means for bringing myself back to center, as a place of quiet contemplation, and from time to time (with a lot of time between) as a place between the worlds where I can encounter Crow, for who I am claimed (that’s for another blog posting at another time).

Now, as I postulated in my post on Practical Druidry, there’s a very good chance that I may have aspects of this definition wrong. There may be something far better in use somewhere else. This is merely my own initial steps into this area. Or put another way, my forest looks a little different than this one. Where mine has evergreen trees, and silver birches all around, here there are Maples, Oaks, and Apple trees. While the trees are different in configuration, its still a forest.

Splitting this down into pieces, I notice one particular point that has crossed with my current Path recently. Understanding where something has come from. In a recent Druidry lesson, this point was brought up. To take something and try and trace it back to its origins. See where it comes from. How it obtained the shape it has now, and all the people that have touched it in one way or another. To realize how inter-connected we are. And then to realize what you have done for a single object. You begin to look around you at all the pieces that are a part of your environment – the computer, your desk, your chair, the clothes you are wearing, the drink that you have nearby, the carpet, the sheetrock that is your walls and ceilings, the two-by-fours that make up the structure of your home, the shingles on the roof, the grass in your yard, the vegetables in your garden, the car in your driveway or garage — each one of those things has a connection to elsewhere, to someone else, to people who share your ideas, and to some who do not. And once all of that is sorted out, you can start to see how vast our world is. And how each of us, as single individuals, make only one small “meep” in the roar that is the voice of humanity. On our own, we are singular people with singular visions — together, when driving in a particular direction under a united set of visions, we are capable of achieving anything we want to.

For me, this is the gist – at the moment – of what Contemplative Druidry is about. Looking at things in ways that we take for granted. or opening our eyes and minds to a new way of viewing things. Finding new ways to see our world, see ourselves, envision our futures – singularly, and collectively. But then what??  We have to find a way to put this formation of ideas into motion.  And I will take a look at that in the next part….

Looking at “Practical Druidry” – My Starting Point (Part 1 of 3)

AwenOver the last couple of months, I have heard two terms getting tossed around quite a bit in the blogosphere – “Contemplative Druidry” and “Practical Druidry”. Well, I decided to have a little peek around these and see what I might come up with – and figure out how that relates to me. What I got into was something I was not quite expecting, and at times felt that I was in just a touch over my head with the topic depth.

During this little academic (at times) exercise, I thought it would be a good idea to encapsulate the entire endeavor in journal entries. I started this search at the end of the Thanksgiving weekend with the full intent to have something that was quick and simple to publish. Instead, I found myself approaching the two points from a manner that resembled some of my larger research paper assignments from my Masters of Business Administration degree. As I type this, I am reading through a few pages of what I have written and trying to find a summation that encompasses both what I have written and the frame of mind that I found myself in. The following is my best attempt at accomplishing just that.

My first search walked me down the direction of “Practical” Druidry. Before setting out, I decided to try and come up with my own definition/idea of what the term meant to me – and then lay that as a comparison against what I had found. Working from the idea of practicality, I set upon a boundary for this term:

Practical Druidry is the physical motions of putting one’s Druidic beliefs and philosophy into motion, such as the moment when an individual lets go of logical perspective when creating something, and divines inspiration from the Awen. In this manner, an individual ceases to think of what they are doing, and allows their reflexes and intuition to drive the process forward.

Not precisely a stellar definition, but its enough for me to intuit where my mindset is concerning this term. I started my search with Google, utilizing the term itself “Practical Druidry”. The first link took me to the website for my Druidry Order – the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids.  The link was entitled “Practical Spirituality” and written by Steve Hounsome. I will freely admit, I do not know the name or the individual whatsoever – so the writing was something completely new for me. The article, it turns out, was a refreshing look at a principle I had already started to put into play:  finding the sacred in my own daily life and work.  Hounsome elaborates:

When we look at our life as a sacred principle, we come to the point where we begin to see something of that sacred, or Divine, in all that we do. As such, we can be as much a Shaman, Witch, Druid or whatever when we are sitting behind our desk at work as we are when we are seated in our ceremonial circle.

I have elucidated upon this quite a few times here on the blog.

I’ve mentioned before, my job with the college is Data Analysis – essentially finding patterns in data that is gathered and compiled by the college. Its actually a lot fun – I get to try and talk to the database, and learn its query language, I get to look at the data that gets compiled, and try to find patterns to present to upper management. The challenge is not to present the material with my own bias.  (…)  To be completely honest, I never dreamed that my Druidry studies would show me a new way of looking at how my daily life ties so closely to my own immediate surroundings and environment. There are days that I wish I had uncovered this way of looking at Life when I was far younger – but then if I did…I wouldn’t be who I am now. (Barcharts, Data, Leaves and Colors….)

In a manner of speaking, I am already trying to stretch my legs into the territory of “Practical Druidry” – finding ways to relate aspects of my everyday job, where I search for patterns and logical comparisons between sub-populations of the collegiate student body – with my continual mode of learning about how to utilize my Druidry lessons into finding these comparisons.

I was also surprised at how different my starting definition was from what the article had noted – and how similar it had turned out to be as well. The differences were by no means a rocking of the world for me – but the similarities were certainly not close enough to say that I had bulls-eyed the target, so to speak. There was certainly a large amount for food for thought in each of those notations. And that food I am continuing to chew to this day, slowly devouring the essence of what I am gathering, while savoring the magickal taste of doing this search in the first place.

…and soon, I was going to change gears again, as I picked up the very heady wine of Contemplative Druidry….


Continuing My walk, My Discovery, My Path

Patterns, relationships, meaning – my professional life has moved from the world of teaching to one where I spend time trying to wrestle meaning from patterns and relationships from numeric values presented from various reporting methods and tools. As I dig through the material and try to be as neutral as I can with my meaning, other people that I present these findings to will make decisions based on that. Thus, I tread very carefully in the manner in which I try to represent my findings. After all, I want these folks to make up their own mind when deciding how to proceed with a choice.

Life, on the other hand is a little different. Every single day, I am presented with a choice of some sort.  Do I take a coat with me on my way out the door to work? Do I wear a tie to work today or just a polo shirt? What will I eat for lunch?  Dinner?  Which route do I drive to work?  Which route will get me to work on time? And there are a variety of choices for where I get the correlating data to make those choices. And through that data, I try to discern patterns for the rest of today, the rest of the week. Choices, choices, choices.

But one pattern I have noticed since I started working – is that I have found myself getting a little more distant from my own daily practices – and this was leaving me feeling off-balance. Over the last few weeks, I have started adjusting my sleep schedule – so I was up an hour earlier than normal – where I could put back into practice my morning grounding exercises, and find myself watching the morning sunrise again.  This has helped me tremendously, especially keeping me from feeling disconnected at my job.

I have a HUGE office. So large, my boss has started moving in filing cabinets that have been in storage into my office. I don’t really mind – it gets me into a place where I can start putting things into some kind of order – particularly material from the past. But I have no windows. In fact my office could be designated as a tornado shelter, since it is centrally located in the building, and concrete on all sides. Not a bad place to feel secure, but with no windows, I find myself continually yearning to see the outside at various times of the day. Luckily, when I get stuck on pieces of SQL code, I am free to wander the campus – and find myself spending time down around the gazebo that looks out over the campus duck pond (and we do have ducks).

Around this time last year, I was coming away from a highly energetic Pagan Pride Day. It was an amazing feeling to have spent time with so many other Pagans who were so happy. But eventually, I found myself in a position of doubting…who I was, what I was doing, and where I was going spiritually. Now, I find myself a bit cut-off from my practices because of the extreme altered aspect of my work schedule…and I found that all of this…this Paganism….this Druidry…is very much a part of me, more so than I ever thought before.

How does all of that speak to my choices?  My writing?  Yes, even my “professional” writing. Seeing patterns and relationships within data; digging deeper into the data to find the correlating story in the real world that helps explain one perspective or another; showing how one choice may affect another further down the line, or may influence the decision making process of the decision-maker(s). I have a vague understanding of how that takes place, and its an area of observation that I am more keenly aware of.

Perhaps I was a bit naive when I started down the road of Paganism – thinking that this Path was all the individual relationship one has with Nature. Way back when I was bright-eyed, novice Pagan…I saw the “Natural” world as that where the bushes, trees, and tall grasses started – not the area where concrete, asphalt and electrical wiring dotted the landscape in various sizes, shapes, and functions. Slowly, I have started to realize that there are so many more aspects – so many more relationships that I have yet to explore and determine.

As I wander through the patterns, relationships, and roads of what is the world around me – I find that my understand of my belief is so small now, and will be still quite small when I pass beyond the veil. But its about growing who I am – not gathering knowledge, or trying to understand all of it. I am only a single individual in this entire story…and as I raise my voice to tell my story – I join the chorus of the others around me. Just another thread in the pattern…related to all the threads around my in an intimate fashion that I could never begin to express in such a limited forum as this…

…and so I continue my walk, my discovery, my Path…

The Waiting is the Hardest Part…

RedRocksI am sitting here trying to come up with a way to approach one of my class discussion questions, not really sure which way my brain is going to spark on the topic. I do have an opinion on the topic, but that is the problem – it is just an opinion.  And one of many on the topic that roll around in my brain. But I do know that the Imbas will take a hold of me eventually, and I will gather a perspective together and write. And write some more.  And some more. I just need to quiet down the rest of my thoughts, and let them slide into the background – even for just a short while. But in the meantime, I sit, listen to some quiet music, and gently push those stray thoughts out of the way. Like Tom Petty once lamented – the waiting is the hardest part.

Honestly, its not the easiest thing in the world to do – finding that quiet, alone point in one’s life. Most people go through their lives not realizing how much external noise there is. And how much that can sometimes interfere with the need for quiet, focused thought. Up until recently, I always believed I had a firm grasp on how to handle this concept of stillness for myself. Then I stumbled upon a few thoughts which I felt relayed an even deeper perspective from the book “Zen Druidry: Living a Natural Life With Full Awareness” by Joanna Van Der Hoeven.

In Druidry, we learn to listen – to the blackbirds singing at dusk, to the airplane overhead, to the bee buzzing amongst the daisies. So too should we learn to really listen to each other and not merely hear each other. Too often we are ‘listening’ to someone while already forming a reply in our own heads before they have even finished speaking. Engaging fully with the moment means fully listening when someone is speaking.

Druidry is all about relationship with the natural world. If we are truly mindful, that relationship will have so much more meaning. We really begin to understand that we are part of an ever-changing world, in a constant flux, with no single moment defining who or what we are – merely an endless series of moments which we all share on our journey through life.

We hear and attune, fully experiencing the earth and her rhythms. We dedicate ourselves to further understanding these, through relationship and empathy, compassion and determination. We become aware of nature’s cycles and our own cycles, encouraging those seeds that will nourish us to grow, and letting go of all that holds us back. It is living with the courage to be fully present, whatever the reality. It is connecting to ourselves, our gods, our world around us, with dedication and determination. It is letting go into the flow of awen, of satori, of truly being.

…and that is only three quotes from the book. Joanna makes excellent points – we have to attune ourselves to stopping our own notions of what we see and hear – where we continually attempt to complete the thoughts of others – and listen to everything that is being stated. Not to assume that we have already heard what we are about to hear – or have seen what we are about to see. And then to open ourselves to whatever experience is about to happen – without anticipation, without assumption. And this includes in communicating with ourselves…trying to clear that space where we can achieve the focused thought of the moment. Where we can be in the ‘now’ of the moment.

I cannot say that this technique of clearing your mind to achieve hyper-focus on an issue will work for you. It works for me. Its the manner in which I can achieve the state of being between the worlds. If it does not work for you – do not be too put out over it. It merely means that the methodology is not working for you. Keep looking for the one that will help you achieve the state you are seeking.

Now, I think I can finish clearing up what is in my mind, so I can focus on this single question for my class discussion – and provide the opinion I believe to be the most appropriate answer for me….