Getting Uncomfortable: Words Backed With Actions

I am still wandering down the path of comfortability, in regard to my Paganism. As I look through all the various areas that I have avoided in blog “conversations” in the past, the one that has really come forward in my thoughts is that of accountability. Perhaps, much of my consternation with this area comes from the wide array that I find this to cover. Thus, a little exploration of the concept is probably necessary the beginning of things.

When I think of accountability, one phrasing immediately comes to mind: calling people out on their shit. Making them accountable for the things that they say, the things that they do. Using an extreme example, the entire Pagan community went bonkers over the sexual misconduct of musician Kenny Klein, particularly that he would seek out under-aged, impressionable ladies for his sexual proclivities. According to several people, many in the wider Pagan community were aware of Klein’s activities, but chose not to call him out over such things – thus leaving many young ladies to be his unwitting prey. Klein was eventually found out by the authorities, arrested, sentenced, and died while serving his punishment. However, there was a lot of fall-out from the incident that fell on others who, as previously noted, aware of Klein’s predatory nature. In essence, they were being held accountability for their inaction over the knowledge they had. For me, this is what accountability has always been about.

However, as I have dug deeper into the concept, I have come to realize that accountability has other angles to it as well. These other ales have made me wonder even more about the aspect of accountability within our wider ranging Pagan community.

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary accountability is “the quality or state of being accountable.” This led me down the rabbit-hole to the definition of accountable. From here I found two more perspectives: “subject to giving an account” and “capable of being explained.” Some synonyms provided included, amenable, answerable, liable, and responsible. This provided enough of an answer to my question of just what might be meant towards accountability within our wider community.

All of this left me with a few perspectives to work from. From one perspective, accountability is being held responsible for one’s actions. From another, there is the implication of retribution for unfulfilled trust and/or violated obligation. So, utilizing these two perspectives, I have moved forward with my thoughts.

Being held accountable for our words and actions is important. This holds true to one’s actions, one’s words, and even one’s implied actions. Using one of the most common examples, we state that we are going to make it to an event early to help setup and stay late to help with breakdown and cleanup. Yet, we do neither. We are responsible for our words. Granted, real-life issues can happen to get in the way of such obligations, but these should be few. Depending on the seriousness of this slip-up, one can lose the integrity of what they say. Many statements of can be followed by an eye-roll and side-commentary of “suuuuure” being evidenced from others. One’s personal integrity becomes an issue.

Many of us have made oaths before our groups during our initiatory rites. Many have also made oaths to their respective Gods that they work with. A violation of those oaths can sometimes have serious consequences attached to it. And the Gods are far less forgiving if the dog ate your homework.

However, there is a side of accountability that I want to add and explore just a touch deeper. Accountability partner. These are individuals or things who agree to apply peer pressure to you to help keep you on track with a task or something that you are not really wanting to do. For instance, I have an accountability partner strapped to my wrist. My Fitbit Versa. Not only does the FitBit keep track of my heartbeat, it also tracks my activity. When I do not move around for long periods of time, it will vibrate to get my attention, and remind me to get up and move around for a bit. This helps keep my issues with edema in my legs from being serious issues at the end of the day. The little nag of “did you do this?” is constantly there. Certainly, it’s a pain in the ass, but it serves a useful purpose.

This idea of an accountability partner, coupled with the horrible winter weather that paralyzed the entire state of Texas (where I live) had me wondering how many Pagan folk were checking in on the Pagans that they knew? What about disasters in other areas? Familial tragedies? Particularly during this time of COVID, where it feels like we are all so completely separated from one another. How about your neighbors, be they Christian, Atheist or otherwise? Are we checking in with one another enough?

While thinking this over, I came to the realization of what we would be doing in this case. We would be creating an intentional inter-dependent group. Inter-dependency is not a bad thing to have. We can be independent in many facets of our lives, but still be inter-dependent or accountable to one another through indirect communication means, such as voice mails, text messages, and even Emails. We are not flirting with unhealthy co-dependence but are creating healthy lines of communication. Those healthy lines of communication may be all we have when the weather outside makes travel completely improbable as it did here in Texas earlier this year or as COVID has done to all of us over the past year-plus.

So, how is the Pagan community accountable within its own paradigm? In my opinion, we could all do a lot better. Not just in personal communications, but also in speaking out about things such as racism and pedophilia within our community. We are no different than any other grouping of people. We have problems which we don’t always speak out about. Believe me, as a wider, world-wide community we have done a far better job at connecting with one another and developing inter-dependent capabilities than we had in the 1980s. But we still have a lot of work to do on the area of predators and racists within our wider community.

For me, accountability has always been something to approach quietly, and only when necessary. In looking through my own misconceptions over the entire idea, I realize that the Pagan community does have to draw a few lines in the sand. Sexual predation and racism need to be found and challenged within the community, particularly if we are going to provide “safe for all” environments. Those lines must be drawn and firmly held without fail. We also need to reach out to our fellow Pagans and make connections that we continually work on, develop, and grow, where healthy for all involved. So, yes, accountability is calling people on their shit. But as I have come to realize through all of this – it’s a lot more than that. But it does all start with backing up your words with actions.

–Tommy

Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

Personal Ritual – Doing It For Yourself

Welcome to day (counting on fingers)…..whatever of the #CoronaVirusPanic! Seriously though, just try to remember not to panic folks… Beyond this small paragraph, you won’t read too much from me on the #CoronaVirusPanic of 2020. Why? Because all you need to do is flip on your television or your radio to get caught up. My opinion? Well…it sucks. That about sums up my feelings….

I’m a day late with the blog post, which is an “ok” thing. First, no one is going to die if I don’t write these on time. Second, I don’t have an army of these posts lined up and scheduled for lift-off. I tried doing that…and I wound up writing even worse than I usually do, so I resorted back to sitting down and just writing – which I think provides a better blog post (for the most part). Plus, there are not that many bloggers – Pagan or otherwise – that are using this methodology to write with.

Besides, I get plenty of questions to work off of. Derrick from Ohio (its what he preferred me to refer to him as), wanted to know a bit more about doing ritual for just yourself, particularly in this time where we have started to live a life shut into our homes. All right Derrick, I will give you my run-down, but I do caution anyone – not everyone does what I do. There are many ways to do what you are asking…or if you prefer, there are many roads to Rome. I’m not sure that any of those roads connect across the Atlantic ocean to the United States, but what the Nine Hells….

I have a morning ritual that I do, which is the start of nearly every day for me. Its nothing super crazy, and its fairly simple. Whenever I get up, I step outside and greet the Sun. Even if its behind the clouds. On really nice mornings, I’ll add the OBOD “Tree Meditation,” as depicted in this video.

Its not really important what you add or remove from a daily meditation aspect. Some folks take time out of each day to venerate their ancestors, others seek a time of clam and reflection, and others will provide prayers and thanks to their respective Gods. What matters most, is what you do has meaning to you. As well as developing a daily routine of doing what you are wanting to do. Does it deepen your focus in a way that you want? Does it honor your Gods in a manner that you feel reflects the veneration that you wish to offer? Does the morning, afternoon, evening or night feel best? Only you can answer those questions. And whatever you answer will be correct – for you.

The other key in all of this is learning the basic framework of the ritual you are wanting to do. Most of the rituals I do for myself are impromptu. They are some basics to what I do, such as the recitation of what is sometimes affectionately referred to as the Druid’s Prayer.

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

Now I have altered it slightly to reflect my own Polytheist bend – I just changed God to Gods – but these lines all hold strong meaning to me. As such, each recitation provides a reminder to me of what my Druidry is all about. Aside from the Druid’s Prayers, I will turn to each of the compass points (north, East, South and West) to thank all entities that are attending my rite, and ask that They not do harm or trickery during the rite. That is a little something I have taken and altered from a few of the ADF rituals I have attended. Those are my basics. Nothing overly difficult, nothing too complicated. Everything else that happens between the opening of the rite to its closing is completely impromptu. I have been known to recite poems, sing, talk or just sit quietly. The actions are dependent on what I feel at the moment. I have had a few folks tell me this is some kind of ecstatic ritual format…to which I usually shrug. I’m not really worried about learning theological terminology that I can apply to the ritual techniques that I have learned to use. I just want to do my rite, when and where I feel like.

I have mentioned it before, don’t go grabbing at pieces of various rituals – as I have done here – and trying to sew them together, until you have learned the basics of what you are taking from. Without the understanding of those basics, you have a foundation made out of sand – mushy, and not completely solid. Learn a basic comprehension of what you are using, so that you can apply it correctly.

All of that leaves me at group rituals. I have not done enough group rituals to really consider myself all that knowledgeable. I can handle myself fine with a piece of paper in my hand, with my speaking part laid out among the speaking parts of all. Putting one together? Well, that’s not for the feint of heart…and let’s just say that I am cognizant enough of my abilities and understanding to know when and where I am in over my head. I tend to leave group rituals to the people that know how to do that, and do it well. But I am learning. So maybe in the future, my writing on this will have changed ever so slightly.

Tools? Flash cotton? Props? Costume? Ritual garb? Sure, why not? The basic elements of my ritual clothing is a green cloak and usually a t-shirt and jeans under that. I have toyed with the idea of getting some clothing together that I could use for ritual…think Renaissance type clothing…but that’s only in its initial phases of contemplation. Right now, I remain in cloak, t-shirt, jeans and either boots or tennis shoes.

In these days, where we are essentially shut into our homes over the #CoronaVirusPanic, you can find the time to make a daily ritual. get up and greet the sun. In the evenings, go outside in your backyard and bid the sun a fond farewell for the night. Get the Sun to promise to rise again in the morning. All of that is ritual. Something that is done over and over. Or if you prefer, spend some time in meditation with your chosen Gods. If you do circles for your rituals, do one to create sacred space for your meditation. Allow the circle to dissipate, just as you would in your ritual.

In other words, its time to do some home exercises on our personal faith and devotion. No matter what practice. Take some time getting closer to your Gods. Take some time to get closer to your personal Spirituality. We always complain that we don’t have a lot of time to work on our Gwers lessons. Well, if you’re home instead of at work….you have the time now. Just a thought.