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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Odysseus, Troy (2004)

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

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

–Tommy

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Revisiting: Paganism: Forty to Fifty Years…Maybe

The future of Paganism. A heady topic, to say the least, and one that many bloggers in the so-called “Pagan Blogosphere” have grappled with from time to time. Back in 2016, the Pagan news aggregate site, The Wild Hunt, published an article tackling just that perspective. Where would Paganism be in one-hundred years’ time? I was intrigued enough with the perspective that I wrote a post on the topic and published it nearly to this day (1/27) in 2016. I happened to catch this in my Facebook Memories, and jumped over to the post to read what I had written. Or I should say, what I had not written.

My post is vague on what I believe things would be like in forty to fifty years. I understand why I wrote it the way that I did. I am not one for looking to the future with a definitive perspective. For me, what is to happen has so many cross-roads and forks in the road, that it is almost impossible to determine which way anything will go. This time around…well, I will try to be a bit more upfront. I am sorry to say, my outlook is not very rosy. The time frame I chose was forty to fifty years. That puts things around the time of 2056 to 2066. So, I will continue to stay with that choice.

As a momentary aside, I will point out that much of this post is written from a perspective of Paganism within the United States. After all, I live here, and am a citizen here. That is not meant to spit on Pagans elsewhere in the world, merely that my viewpoint is narrowed to where I live. I cannot speak to how things are or might be elsewhere in the world, and certainly those that live in those parts of the world would be far better (and far more informed) than myself at expressing an opinion concerning that.

My first stop was on the concept of public acceptance of Paganism. There have been a lot of steps taken towards the acceptance of Paganism within the public sphere. I was a part of some of those steps. The more open acceptance of Pagans within the United States military services. Circle Sanctuary was an extremely large part of that push, providing information to military chaplain services, and helping those of us trying to gain equal footing on a spiritual level with our fellow brothers and sisters in uniform that practiced the “big five” faiths. That took a lot of time and effort, and that ball has been moved a few yards down the field, but there is still a lot left to be done. Much of that effort was done in the late-1980s to the mid-1990s, and yet there is still a long way to go before anything close to equality can be achieved. That was a little over twenty-five years ago. Using that as a poor measuring stick, I think that public acceptance of Paganism by 2066 will continue to move forward, but at a very small, incremental pace.

The second point that was made was concerning temples, sacred spaces or other venues that would be akin to the common day Christian church. I live in central Texas, just south of the Dallas/Fort Worth metro-mess. Here in this small, rural large town, there are seven churches within three miles of the house I live in. Seven. In the rest of the town, there are four more. Hillsboro is far from being a teeming metropolis. Yet, the number of churches is quite large for such a smallish population. To my knowledge, I’m the only Pagan living here. Certainly, there are far more Pagans living to the north of me. But even in the DFW area, I am only area of a handful…well, less than five…public Pagan groups. Two of those reside within the arms of the Unitarian Universalist churches. Not truly Pagan, but it is a start. The point here is that there are not that many spaces that can be construed as “Pagan” and temples or sacred spaces. But these do exist. By 2066? Well, I would posit that there would be many, many more. Not in the numbers that current Christian churches exist. I think only Starbucks rivals that number. However, I do see this number beginning to grow, but also at the incremental number that I have mentioned previously.

Now I will add a little bit of politics into all of this. Sort of. During this past Presidential election cycle, the divide between Republicans and Democrats was showcased quite emphatically. Now, forget the two people running for the position. Instead, let’s focus for a moment on the overall demographics of the voters. Republicans, particularly those red-hated MAGA idiots, self-identified as Christian people. Again, let’s discard the semantics over what Jesus would be like if He were here. Look at the numbers of these self-professed Christians. It is large. Once you add the self-described Christian folk from the rest of the populace – voting or not – the wider Christian belief system would probably be about one out of every two people. Probably not quite that number, but close. The wider Pagan community – the “Big Tent” or the “Umbrella” or however you want to classify it – would make up far less. Will the Pagan population be bigger by 2066? Of course, it will. The growth numbers bear that out.

However, let me throw one more perspective out there concerning all of this. I have no scientific data to back this up, other than my opinion. I do believe that many of the Pagans in 2066 will be unaffiliated within any organization – be it a Druidry order, a Wiccan coven, a Pagan seminary, or a national Occult group. I see the many Pagans going the route of what I call the “Do It Yourself Paganism” thematic. With more and more Pagan books showcasing ways for Pagans to manage their own Paths, I can see many folks choosing to go the DYI highway with their Spirituality. Something that I do not believe is a terrible thing. Though, I do believe that there is still a lot to be said about traditions and being with those of a like-mind. However, I am looking towards 2066 – not right now.

The future, as much as we want to keep pushing it back, keeps coming forward. With that future, comes new Pagans. With those new Pagans comes a desire to try “new” things or to alter things as those stand now. In my mind’s eye, for Paganism, 2066 will find its standing on the public stage a little different, but still as a background player in the play. I can see more places being designated as “sacred spaces” but nothing approaching the stature and number of today’s common-place church. The animosity of the Christian right towards any belief that is not theirs will continue, until social change takes effect here in the United States, and that is if it happens at all. Until that occurs, smaller belief systems such as Paganism will continue to hold far less of the spotlight in the world of Spirituality. I do; however, see changes coming within Paganism itself. A tidal change towards a more self-driven aspect of Spirituality.

Of course, with any future predictive analysis…I could be way off base. In baseball, there are always predictions on how bad a team will be. But a season is one-hundred-and-sixty-two games. Anything can happen. One only need to look at the miracle season of the 1969 New York Mets, a team that was left for dead before the season began. They went on to win one-hundred regular season games – and the World Series. You must play all the games to find out what the future holds.

–T /|\

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Frightened of the Future But Still Hopeful

After I had written Thursday’s blog, My Oaths Place Me on Common Ground, I got challenged over it with a single question:

So you’re scared of the future?

The question stung enough to hurt, but it also let me offer up a glimpse into things that I see and rarely talk about. My response:

Yes. Yes, I am scared. Scared of a future where healing doesn’t take place. Scared of a future that continues deeper down a dark trail humanity seems to already be on. Sure, admitting that I am scared of what a future may bring can seem like a cowardly perspective to some. To me, its a position of reality. It doesn’t change who I am. It doesn’t change what I am willing to be in service to my Gods and to my fellow humans. But I am scared…not just for me, my family, my friends…but for everyone. Take that however you want to.

Many folks that I talk with are citing the election as the point they are focused on. If America elects Donald Trump, the country goes to shit. If America votes him out, the country is immediately better. I stopped looking at that point some time ago. I’m now looking beyond and seeing a huge chasm between folks here in the United States. In fact, I’m seeing that chasm stretch beyond the United States and out into the world beyond. Here in America, we are deeply divided by our values. Our governmental system was founded on the idea of compromise and common ground. Now, common ground has been eroded away from the advanced widening and depth between two polar opposites. Compromise is seen as a sign of utter capitulation and weakness. When I look beyond the election, I seriously wonder how two sides with a “my way or the highway” mentality will ever reach a point of compromise, much less the necessary point of healing that desperately needs to take place. If the Republicans win, I only see the divide deepening. Should the Democrats win, I cannot fathom the Republicans stepping up to work with the Democrats. I have no idea how things change for the better.

As I started writing this, I was playing Joe Satriani on shuffle, and his song “I Believe” came on. if you would like to hear the song, just follow this YouTube link. The lyrics struck a deep, resonating chord in me, so let me juxtapose my thoughts against the song.

I’ve been out walking, for hours
I got something on my mind
How did we get here? Where are we going?
Why is life so hard

I admit, walking is one of the things I do when I really need to think. I might even be able to walk from here to Houston with all that is on my mind. (Note: that is a distance of some 208 miles, which Google maps thinks would take me about 68 hours to do. In reality, as slow as my aging carcass goes, it would probably be closer to 80 hours) But the song asks the pertinent questions,. How did we get here? Where are we going? For the first question, there are a lot of factors, issues and moments in History that got us to this point. For me; however, the more pressing question is the second. Just where are we going? To be honest, I don’t really know. I see a dark, dark time coming here in America on November 5th. There is a strong likelihood that we will not know who won the election, an even stronger likelihood that the election will be strongly contested in various states by both candidates, and with all of that, violent unrest among the followers of the candidates. That violent part is not speculation on my part; there has already been violence between anti-Trump folks and Trump supporters leading into this election.

I read the stories, see the photographs
World’s a crazy space
Got to hold on to my dreams
There’s just no other place
There’s just no other place

I have tried my very best not to get caught up in all the craziness of the election cycle and the various things that the President says or claims. He enjoys a chaotic atmosphere around him, as it lets him obfuscate actions that would not be tolerated by others. Think of the axiom: “Watch the right hand, so you don’t notice what the left hand is doing.” I try my very best to remain on that island of common ground, which is slowly eroding away like a shallow sandbar under the pressures of a hurricane coming ashore. To keep myself sane, I focus on my dreams…my dreams for the future. My dreams…my goals of what I want to accomplish (and I still have a lot to accomplish). My dreams….and all that I need to do to crawl, claw, and fight my way to what I feel is right. Sometimes even that is not enough and I have to stop what I am doing. Stop to try and catch my breath in the whirling dervish of Trump’s news cycle. Stop to ground myself against all of that chaos and remind myself of where I am trying to go. And hope that everyone else can do the same.

I’ve seen the shadows, of the living
I’ve seen them turn and walk away
And I keep searching, for the right words
To send these thoughts away

There’s a picture, I like to look at
A picture of a beautiful face
And I see something, in her eyes
Sends me to a better place
Sends me to a better place

I am frightened. Frightened of what the future holds. Not just for me, my family, my friends or the tribe that I hold dear. I’m frightened for everybody. Not just those who oppose President Trump but even for those who support him. Weird, huh? That I would fear for the very people that are opposed to my lifestyle and the lifestyles of the people that I love and care about. I should hate them, shouldn’t I? I should shun them, shouldn’t I? I should treat them as being beneath my contempt for them, right? Except that I can’t.

My Druidry teaches me that we are all here together. Our survival on this planet means that all of us need to be included in getting to a point of survival. Even those who don’t believe in the dangers of climate change. Even those who would bring us back to an oppressive Christian church, albeit that it would be an Evangelical Christian church position rather than that of the Catholic faith, previously. My Druidry teaches that Peace and Justice is for everyone and everything, not just a select few. And because of that, I look forward beyond Election Day here in the United States, and I do not see a future for Peace or Justice because I see no room for needed and necessary Healing. The Election is not going to change the fact that we are still struggling against a monolithic justice system that is systemically leaned against African Americans, Hispanics, First Nations peoples…essentially anyone that is not European, white descendant. We are still struggling against a government that rescinds treaties long ago agreed upon with the First Nations peoples because there are “necessary” resources on those lands that were ceded to them. Lands that should never have belonged to anyone because the land should be free. Make no mistake about it folks, the fights for freedom haven’t even really begun just yet. We are only wiping the sleep out of our eyes and climbing out of the bed at this moment.

I believe, we can change anything
I believe, we can rise above it
I believe, there’s a reason for everything
I believe, in my dream
I believe, we can change anything
I believe, in my dream

Yes, I am frightened of the future. I am frightened because I cannot see a good step going forward. Regardless of who gets elected, this nation has to figure out a way to heal this deep divide. A divide that goes way back into our collective histories. Not a few years, but a lot of years. A whole lot of years. An election is not going to heal this divide. An election is not going to change the way things stand in this nation, or even around the world.

There is a battle raging between fundamentalist perspective and the desire to change and grow. Seemingly, we have absolutely forgotten something – to borrow from Damh the Bard: “We are standing on the shoulders of Giants.” On both sides. They struggled for the changes they provided for us. For the foundations that we work from. There will be change coming. Make no mistake about that. Of that I am sure. I am just unsure of the shape it will take.

My Spirituality will get me through all of that which is to come. No matter how dark the road gets. No matter who wins the election. My Spirituality does not change. My faith in the Gods and Goddesses does not waver. My oaths to my Gods will not alter. My responsibility to others will not change. I am steadfast in all of that. But I am still frightened by what I see coming. Frightened for all of us.

By the way, the song mentioned that “I believe in my dream.” I do. With all my heart and soul. I believe in a world where all of our differences can be accepted as just that – differences. Not an item of contempt, but a point of celebration. That we are not all the same. That we are individuals with our own convictions, dreams and goals, living on this planet together as equals. How do we get there? By believing in that dream and acting on it, one at a time. Kristoffer Hughes once stated in a presentation of his that we all get our own Pagan Square mile. And that Pagan Square mile would be connected on all sides (think 3-d modeling here) by other people’s square miles. That we could find harmony living next to one other by respecting each other’s individuality. Its an idea I truly believe in. And as Kristoffer was also prone to say the idea can be passed on as a Druid Transmitted Infection, a DTI. Gods, I certainly hope and pray that it can be done, with a little love, care, understanding and patience. I certainly hope so.

My oaths, by the way, don’t change. My position is still meant to be there to help anyone on their own chosen Path – even if its not mine. That’s what my role apparently is to be. Through the blog, through whatever interactions we might have. You need help, ask. If I din’t have the answers or I don’t know exactly what to do, I know plenty of other people I can either bring you to or find answers from. Remember, as a wider Pagan community, I would hope we all desire to help others in need. Even when they are diametrically opposed to our values and lifestyle. Its about being human. #TwoQuid

–T /|\

Where Do/Should I go From Here??

I always struggle for topics – today being no different than any other. So, I tend to muse over questions that I get via Email when I get stumped. Quite a while ago, well over a year, Daphne E. wrote me, complimenting me on the “Upon a Pagan Path” podcast, and asked why I had brought that podcast, as well as “From the Edge of the Circle,” my original podcast, to a close. She also asked if I miss those “old days” from back then.

Well, there were a few reasons that I brought the podcasts to the end. The primary one was the amount of time it required of me. At the time, I was back in a full-time job, and really didn’t have the time to spend trying to put a podcast together or to do all the pre-planning that goes into creating a show. I do actually miss those days, particularly when there were quite a few prolific shows out there. Getting the chance to talk and mingle with other podcasters was fun, and frankly I’m very honored to have been within their ranks. These days…I’m more likely a forgotten footnote than anything else. But it really was the camaraderie that made things so much fun and always interesting. One of my favorite moments was when Mojo and Sparrow sent me an audio file that I could patch into my podcast episode which mimicked them hacking into the show. That was creative, fun, and hilarious. Its a moment I cherish deeply from my times running the show.

The blog; however, has become my creative outlet. I have thought about slapping together small five minute video segments that I could toss up on Youtube, but I doubt I would really go about doing that. Plus, there’s always the chance of putting another podcast together – except that I am not going to host a podcast by myself ever again. I would need a fellow host or hostess to take that spot. I have no desire to ever be on the microphone on my own again.

Now that I have managed to dig my GoPro camera out of whatever box I had packed it in, I have toyed with the idea of taking hikes in various places in Texas with the camera running. Then coming back and editing up the video for something to upload. Really, it would be a way to show everyone something that I love, and allow me a few moments of commentary. At the moment, I’m not really sure how I would proceed with the idea, since I would need to connect the GoPro to my body in some fashion, rather than carrying it around in its waterproof casing on the end of a selfie stick. So, kinda place this idea in the area of “maybe”…plus, the CoronaVirus stuff needs to really get a little less crazy out there…along with all the crazy violence being added to the protest movements. I like the idea of me being safe concerning my health….yeah. I could utilize a small tripod system and mount the GoPro to that and showcase my rituals…but I don’t have the tripod to do that with. But again, place this in the arena of “maybe”….

Not long ago, someone had asked why I am not on any of the Pagan-oriented podcasts that are out there. I think this was a question that was asked on Facebook. Maybe. Anyways, I responded that (a) no one had asked, and (b) I’m fairly NSFW in my conversational manner, so I might not be appropriate for their show. ::shrug:: Otherwise, I’m more than happy to sit and chat about stuff on a podcast show…although I would prefer sitting around the fire and discussing things with people face-to-face. Just a much more conducive environment for discussions, from my perspective. Plus the conversation can go free-wheelin’, as it where. No singular topic to hold on to.

Honestly, I am not trying to put myself into any arena where I might become a ‘Big Name Pagan”. Fame, notoriety….none of that is my bag, man. I’m no authority on anything other than my own personal Path. Nor am I trying to build some concept of a “brand” where I can market myself. Money has no driving force with me. Granted, its always nice to be paid for one’s time and energy, but its definitely not required. I don’t make a living from being a Pagan. I’m not marrying people or performing coming of age rites or funeral proceedings for those that have passed beyond the veil. Though I have had a few folks tell me that I should think of hanging my own shingle out there. ::shrug:: I am not sure that I am THAT kind of Pagan, but I do have the utmost respect for those that are doing such services for their communities. Its a tough gig, but a very rewarding part of giving back to the community.

My writing style is very much like my talking style. Its raw and for the most part, very unfinished and unrefined. I have a desire to write a book, and have even started aspects of it. I do know that my writing needs work and that sitting at a keyboard each day helps to refine that. So does reading. The more I experience the written word, the better I will get with it. Just like any other aspect of one’s Paganism – the more you do, the better you get. Just my opinion there.

So where am I going from here? At the moment, nowhere. This little niche I have created for myself allows me the freedom and opportunity to try out some different things going forward, as I noted previously. Some of it, may be an unmitigated disaster. Other parts may be triumphant miracles that I never realized would blossom the way that they do. Most of it will fall, in varying degrees somewhere in between. But I’ll never know if I don’t try…

–T /|\

Musing On: Druidry and the Future

Ah. The weekend. Always a great time to write. And a reminder that life occasionally has to take a break. We can’t run at full speed all the time. Sometimes, we just have to stop to catch our collective breath and take a seat. I’m no different than anyone else in that regard. The nice part of those kind of stops is all the communication that takes place.

In the last post, Thinking About: What Makes a Druid a Druid? I did a little impromptu research. In other words, I pulled a few books off the shelf, and started reading to find stuff that might help explain the point I was making. All that reading got me dwelling deeper and deeper into Philip Carr–Gomm’s book “What Do Druids Believe?” As I kept reading, I started seeing new creases that I could bring myself towards within the blog. At the beginning of the chapter “Druidry in the Future”, Philip adds a quote from John Michael Greer.

The approaching transformation requires people, groups, and communities to be ready to preserve legacies for the future, so that as the vast tottering structure of industrial civilization comes apart, seeds can be planted that will bear fruit in times to come. I suggest that the Druid community prepare itself to fill that role, and to save and plant those seeds. –John Michael Greer, Druidry and the Future.

Now, a few points of personal reference. First, my background is in Information Technology, a field that continually re-invents itself cycle after cycle with new hardware and software changes. In that field, there is a lot of derision laid down at the feet of older technology. Essentially, each change forgets the history that it came from – discarding it as “non-essential,” “old and useless,” and “not worthy of examination.” As an amateur technology Historian, I disagree. Sometimes an older design, while being more simplistic and less elegant, turns out to be just the approach that is necessary. So, in that regard, I agree with Greer. Older aspects of Pagan traditions should always be acknowledged and remembered – even if its not used. Much like technology, magickal techniques, ritual approaches, and individual understandings of the Otherworld and the Gods, can evolve over time. Remembering where things came from, and how we got to where we are are just as important as understanding where and how things will evolve in the future.

I do disagree with Greer about the “crumbling” aspect of industrialized society. This will be a point that a lot of my friends will disagree with me on. There’s a lot of desire to see the industrialized, over-built creature known as capitalism to finally come to a grinding halt. I agree that a change would be ideal, but just like technology continues to move forward and change as new procedures are realized and new hardware that is more precise and faster is produced – governmental concepts also morph and change…..slowly. Technology moves at a lightning pace, governmental and societal changes occur at a far slower pace. As newer, younger faces arrive on the political scene, those changes will occur slowly as their numbers increase, and the numbers of the “old guard” decrease. Now, circling back to the future of Paganism, and the seeds that are being planted…

The change is going to occur within Paganism. The younger generation is growing up. They are young adults now. Where most of us in the “old guard” came to Paganism with the baggage from our trip on the Christian faiths, many of these younger Pagans grew up with Paganism as part of their daily lives. They come to Paganism with a far different, and in many respects, a far more open mindset than we did. There’s not a lot of de-programming that needs to take place with these folks. And just like technology so easily discards and discounts the past – that danger is ever present. Our preservation of our histories and the ties to the modern aspects of Paganism are something we may need to take a much more serious look at.

Sure, I grok the point. Here’s a mid-50s Pagan talking about preserving the Pagan past because I don’t want to see what I have done slide under the waves in the oceans of History. Its a valid point, and there is a grain of truth in all of that. However, I can look back throughout my thirty-plus years in Paganism, and see where I have tweaked and changed my own approach to my Paganism. Nine Hells, I’ve been on this Path of Druidry for a short while as well. I can see where I have made changes, adapted to new techniques, and even discarded perspectives that just didn’t work. My times in Wicca are a long ways back in my personal history. But I remember where I came from. I have a few notebooks that go back to that time frame that have my observations. I might not do things that way anymore, but I still have to realize why I tried it, along with why I eventually altered or changed it. I never knew when I might need one of those techniques going into the future.

Greer also mentioned a planting of seeds for the future. I see those seeds growing with the current younger generation of Pagans. I also see their kids being brought to Pagan gatherings. Folks, these are just little kids. I know a lot of folks that ignore or avoid kids at gatherings. I try not to. The impression I leave on them will help inform them what Pagans are like. Treat them with respect, they will remember that into the future – even if they choose a different Path. Planting those seeds doesn’t necessarily mean “more Pagans” but rather “better potential relations with other Paths in the future.”

So what is the future of Druidry? I honestly have no idea. I know I’ll be a Druid, a Pagan, a Polytheist – until I shuffle off the mortal coil of this existence and move towards whatever awaits beyond the veil. I see the younger generation of Druids, Pagans, and Polytheists – and in their eyes I see the future. It will be whatever they shape it to be. Hopefully, we are good enough role models that they shape it in a responsible, meaningful way. I only hope that we, as the elder generation, realize that we don’t get to define what is meant by “responsible” and “meaningful” in their perspectives.

–T /|\

Talking About: Going Through Changes

A while back, I wrote a post about being a “helicopter Elder” and how this was definitely something I didn’t want to be involved within. The younger generation of Pagans is moving into positions of leadership throughout the various Pagan communities and traditions, and they bring a lot of expectations of what they can do for the way Paganism currently is, or at least the corner of that they inhabit. And a lot of that desire for change, that desire to place their stamp on Paganism as they see it, is likely to ruffle the feathers of a lot of older Pagans. That’s the shorter arch of the plot, but the longer one is whether the various traditions – and even Paganism itself – will survive the potential sea-change that is coming.

Recently, Ár nDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship – otherwise known as ADF, went through an issue related to the actions of their tradition’s founder. I’m not going to cover the issue in its entirety, if you are looking for all of that, a Google search will provide all the reward for your efforts. The previous actions of Isaac Bonewits, in regard to under-age individuals, was seemingly brushed over in the past. Sort of like an “Isaac being Isaac” type of statement. However, now, after his passing and in the age of the #MeToo movement, there was a lot of backlash over these previous actions. How would ADF deal with this? Well, it took time, as well as the resignation of a few folks from ADF, but the Mother Grove repudiated (rightly so) the actions of their founder, and removed his status as a venerated ancestor – effectively putting the tradition in the awkward spot of moving forward without a piece of its foundation. But that begins to beg another question, is there a future for a Tradition without its founding member(s)?

Moving Forward Without the Past

So, let’s set the ADF off to the side at this point. They provide an example of what will be happening throughout Paganism in many Traditions and frameworks. How does one move into the future when the Past does not seem to translate well or correctly into a constantly changing social paradigm? Well, sometimes the aspects of the Past do not translate well going into the future. Newer generations will look to the manner in which to alter or change aspects of a Tradition to meet what they will need. Certainly, this can be done without firing the Past into the fire to burn into ash, but the new will alter the Present for the Future.

For instance, going back to the ADF as an example: repudiating their founding member does not change what ADF is today. Nor does it remove the strong basis that the ADF built, not just on Isaac’s work but the work of countless and thankless others. In fact, if you look at the current members – even those who have decided to leave – what ADF is today is the product of their hard work, dedication, sweat, tears, love, fears, and bravery. Certainly, an aspect of their foundation is having to be chipped away because of the unethical behavior of their founder, but there is more to the basis than just his name. A de-emphasis in Isaac will be necessary going forward, and a re-emphasis on what the members as a collective group have accomplished to this point and into the future will be needed. Honestly, that is for ADF to decide – I am not a member. Just a friend to many members of the Order.

Change Will Be Necessary to Grow

I remember very well what I was like when I first set foot into my Pagan Path. I had dreams of good activity. Where my Path was about upholding what was great about my new Path when compared to the excesses and hypocrisy of Christianity. Ah, the “fluffy-bunny” days. So idealistic. However, as I progressed on my Path, so did my expectations and understanding of what I was experiencing within Paganism. As I grew, my Spiritual Path changed. I learned to work with the Dark aspects of life. I learned that the “love and light” perspective was only one of many. I was burned by others who were hypocritical, untrue, and even predatory with their own Paths. I found that Paganism was no different than Christianity or any other Spiritual Path. For me to become the Pagan that I am today, I needed to alter and change my Path – not only to my own understanding, but also to the manner in which Society around me changed as well. if I was to grow, I had to change.

A glass of whiskey for the Spirits of Ancestor and two coins for the Boatman

Paganism is going to go through this as well. The younger generations that are stepping into the roles of leadership, even the lower level aspects of leadership, will help place their own understanding and experiences into what they do. They may change the approach to public rituals, altering ritual structures to accommodate what they feel works. And honestly, I will likely disagree with them, as may many others who have been in the leadership roles of Paganism over the years. But many of us may be set in our ways of how to do things, having done these for so many years. Sooner or later, we will realize that we need to step aside, and let those with energy, youth, and – yes – new ideas come to the forefront. Paganism will change going into the future. As will Wiccan, Druidry, and other Traditions, as each evolves into whatever the future social environments will provide and require.

When groups, like the ADF currently, go through troubling issues, there is a tendency to thank one’s lucky stars that you are not a part of their system. After all, their issues just give Druidry and Paganism a black-eye, right? We should avoid these folks at all costs. Because if Isaac did it, the rest of ADF is the same way, right? Well, some folks can think like that, but not me. I may be of a different Druid order, I may be a different kind of Pagan, I may be a different type of Priest, but I still grieve with them over such an issue. My compassion for the members of the ADF doesn’t stop at the border of my own Druid Order or at the borders of how I approach my Paganism. My compassion is there for them. I want to see their Order succeed from this ordeal (and others that are also being addressed within the Order). Because I don’t see them as competition, I see them as human beings – working their way through this Life by finding the Spiritual methodologies that translate best to what they are trying to do. And I really just want the best for them; however, they may find it. I would say the same for any group of Christians going through the same thing – even if they wished ill to me. Its not for me to say how people walk their own Paths. Nor is it for me to try and keep the future generations of Pagans from altering aspects of today’s Paganism for their future.

Will ADF survive? I believe so. It will still take time, a lot of discussion, debate, argument, tears, shouting, hugging, and mutual respect/love. However, I am confident that the organization will get there, once common ground is achieved. The process will be painful. As a friend to many of the members, I am always available for hugs, support and a shoulder to cry into. I have no solutions for them, I am not a part of their Order, but I certainly have compassion for the growth and change they are going through.

Will Paganism survive? Of course it will. Some of the changes that may occur will not always be to my liking. However, the Paganism that I will eventually leave behind at my passing will be what worked for me. Others may take up what I have done, alter it for their means. When they are finished with the alterations, I would probably not recognize it. But then, its a Paganism for them, not for me. I’ll be happy being a foundational part (or not, as the case might be) of what they do.

Growing Pagans Means Growing Leaders Too

For the last few days (since Wednesday), I have been trying to come up with something to write about – and just have not found anything rattling around in the empty can of my brain. I’ve also been watching the televised aspects of the funeral of Representative Elijah Cummings. Both celebrations have been wonderful to witness, and have also shown the depth of this man’s passion for not only his constituents, but also for human beings the world over. There was a quote of his that kept being bandied about over and over, which got me into a thought process which I am about to detail here.

Our children are the living messengers we send to a future we will never see… –Rep. Elijah Cummings

This particular quote was backed up by a lot of things that Rep. Cummings did for the youth of his Congressional district, as well as people all over the country and the world. His actions backed his words to the nth degree. He provided opportunities for younger children that might never have been afforded to them, allowing for experiences that will surely change their lives. His goal was to provide the chance for our divided society to find common ground, heal from that point, and grow from that healing. That was his vision, and its a beautiful one to behold. I do await the fruits that his efforts will create through others that will carry on that legacy. And this brought a thought to my mind…

What are we doing to grow as a wider Pagan community? Now, you have heard me talk about how the children are important to whatever future we grow as Pagans, but as Pagans, we also tend to allow our children to explore and find their own way through their Spiritual needs. And for the most part, I’d wager that most of those children will wind up picking a Spiritual path with a touch more structure, most likely a Christian one. No slight to a non-Christian faith, but it makes sense for children to lean towards something a bit more organized…a faith where the large majority of their friends are. And to be completely honest, this is not a bad thing. Most of those children raised in Pagan families will likely carry the moral values that they were taught by their parents and other Pagan adults into their new faith. We can only hope that they remain strong in those aspects when encounter the less Christian aspects within the Christian faith in their later lives. But its not the young children that I am leaning towards in my question. What are we doing for the younger Pagans in our community?

Growing Up and the Seeds of Leadership

Everyone can remember their painful, awkward first steps into Paganism – whatever that may be. I remember mine. It was the beginning of Fall in 1986. I was stationed at Carswell Air Force Base. I had been calling various Bulletin Boards in the local area, and participating in the discussions. Eventually, I came across one called “The Church Mouse”. I talked with several of the folks there, including a pair of Pagans. One was a Witch, the other a Ceremonial Magician. We eventually agreed to meetup at a bar called “The Pig and Whistle Pub” in west Fort Worth, not far from the base. We drank a few pints, through some darts and did a lot of talking. I explained my concept of believing that all things had souls, and were part of energy that moved at a slower speed than we could comprehend. I was told that this was Animism, a term I had never heard before. I also explained that I believed that the Roman and Greek Gods were real, and were distinct Beings that we could experience with some thought and patience. It was then that I encountered the concept of Polytheism. And through those two conversations, I had the concept of Paganism explained to me…and I started to realize that what I believed had names, and definitions. I began to realize I was a Pagan.

Me – USAF – July 1992

Now, in 1988, I became part of a group of Wiccans. I was the one that lived the furthest away (they were in North Dallas), and my weekend shift work at the Data Processing Center did not allow me to always join in with the group. I did run into issues with my base Chaplaincy, particularly when my shift (all Charismatic preachers in their off time) found out what I believed. I was warned that my behavior was considered to be “insubordinate” and told to give up my beliefs. I stood my ground, but I did not have anywhere that I could turn to for help. My group were folks who lived fairly closeted lives, so I could not seek assistance without exposing them. So with nowhere else to go, on a day off, I went to a Pagan shop (the only one I knew at the time) in Grand Prairie called “Flight of the Phoenix”. This was where my coven’s Grandmother Priestess was.

She was openly Pagan, and an author – Pattalee Glass-Koentop. I thought she might be able to point me in the right direction. She went into the back of the store and returned with a military manual I had never seen before, something called “Religious Requirements and Practices of Certain Selected Groups: A Handbook for Chaplains“. She explained it was a US Army manual that was used to help Chaplains understand the beliefs of military members that they encountered. Furthermore, military chaplains had to respect the rights and religious practices of everyone, along with insuring command did not trample those rights. Armed with this material, I went back to the Chaplaincy office that afternoon, and explained to our unit-assigned Chaplain how my rights were being trampled over the previous exchange.

In fact, still armed with this material, I joined in two motions to the Department of Defense to change certain aspects of military practice towards minority beliefs. I helped with the argument to change the religious affiliation line on military dog tags for minority beliefs from “Other” to whatever the military member preferred. This allowed for better identification of individuals that were killed on the battlefield to have their respective rites administered correctly. The second initiative was to be accommodated with space by the Chaplaincy for minority groups with assigned lay-leaders. This would keep military personnel from breaking military housing rules by holding religious ceremonies in their apartment housing.

Of course, in both of those matters, I was only one individual of many – along with the folks from Circle Sanctuary and the Aquarian Tabernacle Church of Wicca, who did much of the advocacy state-side. In fact, at my very last Pantheacon attendance, I came across Selena Fox of Circle Sanctuary and was able to offer my thanks for all of her and Circle Sanctuary’s assistance. That was quite a moment for me.

Nice story, huh? But there’s a point to all of this. See, thanks to Pattalee’s assistance, I found my ability to stand up to being treated in a bad way. I grew as a Pagan in that moment. I found my ability to stand up and protest were inequality was being done to military members in other issues. I learned to fight back, but to be respectful when doing so. It was Pattalee’s advice that helped me to see where I could do my best to make a difference. Yeah, I continually refuse the aspect of being a leader, but I have done some things that do place that squarely on my shoulders as well.

Younger Pagans

Remember the quote from Rep. Cummings? Our younger Pagans are those messengers to the future. And it is a future that I will likely never see. I’m fifty-four now (October 1st). I’m in failing health. I have diabetes. I am approaching (as slowly as I can) kidney failure. Let’s face the facts…I always twist away from the idea of being an Elder…but I am. This year starts my thirty-fourth as a Pagan, a label I have never shied away from. I am not going to live forever (though I would love to – I always wanted to go through life with a sword). The future of Paganism is not with me, it is with the younger generation of Pagans. Not only do we need to help them grow beyond the basic concepts that white-lighters tend to espouse, we also need to help grow them for the concepts of leadership. Sure, I have heard many Pagans moan and groan about a coming war with monotheism…I don’t grok that. As I have said before, I do not go looking for a fight. But I will defend my right to live in peace and exist with my own connection/understanding of the world. Not only my right, but the right of EVERYONE. Oh, and mess with those that I love…I will end you.

Moments like this, standing in front of the fire and thanking the Gods for the safe travels of all, used to frighten me. (Picture by John Beckett)

As our younger Pagans grow, we need to help teach them for those roles of leaders that will seek to defend our rights to live and exist, but also to respect the rights of others to live and exist – and to borrow from the Wiccans – so long as no one is harmed. These younger Pagans will be the Elders of the future. They will be the ones that pass on what we know. They are the ones that will tell our tales, our stories, the stories of our Gods, and mentor their future generations to pass that knowledge, those legends, our stories, and theirs to newer generations.

In a manner of speaking, it is odd for me to be writing something like thus. My own Paganism is one of daily existence and experience – not trying to manipulate the coming experiences of days that have not yet arrived. I strive to live in the now, and yet here I am writing about the future. This is because I have realized two things. First, this knowledge and experiences I have acquired, I am sure that someone in a future generation will find some of this useful in working through their own Spirituality. Gods only know how long my blog will ever exist into the future, but maybe it exists long enough to help someone else. Second, I don’t want to see these traditions die out. I want a Paganism that goes into the future, flourishes and becomes something bigger than any of us imagined. I believe in this experiential approach to our lives. Enough that I hope it is built upon, and exposed to wider group of people. But for that to happen, while we live our existence in day-to-day segments, we also need to build up our knowledge in the younger Pagans, and allow them to expand and grow that knowledge into the future. Sending the messengers with rigid dogma won’t allow things to grow…it will stunt the growth of what we have. We build our future in the knowledge of these younger Pagans, but they will nurture it and explore to make it into something of their own making as well.

Whichever Way the Wind Blows

There is no randomness to the way people act. There are trends in their choices and decisions, all relying on previous experiences in life. Sometimes it takes longer periods of time to determine those particular points, but it can be found. (–I have no recall of who it was that said this to me, but this quote has stuck with me for a very long time in my life)

The last five years of my work life, my job has been about finding those trends to help determine business-oriented decisions for others. There are mathematical formulas dedicated to trying to guess the coming future, so that businesses and corporations will be ready for changes in consumer spending. so they can make more profit for their shareholders. Essentially, trend analysis has been utilized for corporate greed, and to a wide variance of success and failure. Predicative analytics is not as precise or automatic as many may think. In essence, its a guess utilizing some rather sketchy stretches of logic as a “solid” basis. If you get good at coaxing close guesses out of the material at hand, you seem like a genius. But knowing the underlying framework that is used, and how shaky that foundation truly is, I’m rather skeptical of most prognostication techniques.

Around a year and a half ago, I was asked if I could provide my own analysis of what the future of Paganism would be. Not Paganism in the DFW area or Texas or even the United States. Rather, I was asked to look into where I thought Paganism, world-wide, would be. For a few months, I sat on this question and tried my best to determine what I could. However, that’s difficult, given that I have very small ideas of what Paganism is like in places, such as Australia (where I have never been), much less in places such as the United Kingdom, where I have numerous friends to draw perspective from. Perhaps, I could draw the measure down to Texas? hardly. I’m not plugged in to any of the local communities to be able to draw any proper conclusion. That would also remove me from making any guesses towards the wider DFW area. Truth be told, I am hardly in any position to make any such guess. And even if I were plugged into those communities and had a wider grasp of Pagan communities throughout the world – I still could not make any guess, at least not with any concrete perspective. I can; however, sit down and do a small bit of dreaming. A little bit of “what I would like to see”, if you will allow me.

A Touch More Respect

I have watched enough of the Pagan community, particularly online, to notice those that tend to shun the newer Pagans. You know the ones: just discovering the Pagan world. They found a copy of some text that brought about the idea of an underground Pagan community that stands in the shadows, defiant of the over-bearing Christian community. They might have read Warnke’s “The Satan Seller” or Laurel Willson’ “The Satanic Underground” (under the pseudonym “Lauren Stratford”) and believed that there was a larger community there that could offer them a life without restraints imposed upon them by church elders. Except that what they understand as real is not so. Both Warnke and Willson were debunked by Christian magazine “The Cornerstone” as creators of fabricated stories. And yet those folks are here. They stumbled upon the Pagan community. Or maybe they are the white-lighters that everyone seems to so detest. They just haven’t understood that there is a dark side to all of Life as well – that there is balance in everything, even intent. Or perhaps they are just brand new to Paganism, and know so very, very little. I have watched people like this get swatted aside as being unworthy of the time of those who have been on the Path for a while. In my “perfect” Pagan world, these people would be treated differently. They would have the reality explained against what they have bought into, with respect to the point that they are Seekers. Just a touch more respect for the folks, while remembering that we were all those wide-eyed new Pagans at one point in our lives.

A Little Less In-Fighting

I, like many of you, have survived the various struggles that have come about from a “Witch-war” or a struggle between two different types of Pagan groups in a local community. It winds up being a lot like watching a gang-war in the deep-urban areas of Los Angeles. A constant barrage of fighting over who is the better group for a new Pagan. The reality is that there is plenty of room for each (and more) within the wider Pagan community. Two groups can co-exist in the same urban area, so long as they respect one another. Again with that respect thing, eh? To be honest, there is more than enough room for everyone – groups, traditions, familial units, solo Pagans, solitaires…everyone.

View From Medicine Wheel

More Connectedness

Back in the mid-1980s when I first came to understand that I was a Pagan, there were not a lot of resources available. Most Pagan resources were available by mail-order, such as The Green Egg or Circle Sanctuary’s quasi- newspaper/magazine. If you knew a Pagan, it was likely because they lived near you. If they lived further away, you were most likely on a call-in Bulletin Board System (BBS). This was where I had contact with most of the Pagans I knew, both local and at a distance. Being connected with others was not the easiest thing. Over time, the internet arrived and with it, a wider aspect of connectivity. As a medium of connectedness, it has replaced many other forms – and in some cases, that includes the physical aspect. In a perfect Pagan world, this medium of interaction, communication and connectedness would allow us to discover ways that we are similar – rather than drive us apart. And that has happened to one degree or another, but the internet is also rife with those looking for manners of division too.

Let’s face some reality here. The internet provides a strong degree of anonymity. With that anonymity comes the ability to be overly negative, to be a sore spot for others because being a negative force is much easier than being a positive one. And negative attention is better than being absolutely anonymous. Its an aspect of human nature that I am not sure can ever be completely disposed of. Dealing with it….well, that’s a post cut of a whole different cloth.

Do I believe that such a Pagan world could exist? Better communication, more respect, and feelings of strong connectivity of being Pagan together? Possibly. If I tried to extrapolate that from what data I could collect from the areas of Paganism that I do have knowledge and connectivity with – I am not sure I would be that positive about that possibility. However, as I noted before, I also understand the odd complexity of using mathematical formulas to predict the behaviors of people. The true measure of the trends is not so much human behavior, as much as it is human exploration. And which direction, which concept, which philosophy will draw the majority of people to it is as predictable as where each blade from a fistful of grass will land: whichever way the wind blows.

Thoughts on a Future With Paganism

The Past.  We’ve talked a lot about that throughout the blog. We’ve also talked a little bit about the Future. Sort of. There are blog posts out there about the next ten years, the next fifteen, the next twenty. What will be the state of Paganism at those points? How can we possibly steer our current state of Paganism towards the goals so far down the road? This morning, this was on my mind as I was trying to write this blog post. I had no idea just how I was going to write this. During my second cup of coffee, I decided to meditate for a bit on the topic.

DFW Pagan Pride Day 2013

I turned it over and over in my mind. What would I like to see Paganism be like in the future? Well, there’s the obvious – a little more into the mainstream, a religious alternative that is treated as being “serious” by the everyday person – not just the Pagan practitioners. And as I struggled to move forward with my list, a small voice whispered out of the dark trees at the edge of my Sacred Grove:

What if you don’t have that much time?

What do you mean?  Me?  I am nearing 50, an age I once that was ‘ancient’. Then I realized, it wasn’t a literal you, but rather a wider ranging you – meaning all of us. And the hamster start trotting faster on the wheel in my head.

There are a lot of ways to place out this scenario of not having a lot of time. Each one, is a doomsday scene in its own right. What if the Conservative Christians get power here in the United States, and force law changes that put my beliefs in a position of being illegal. Yeah, I know – very “Left Behind” in thought – however as unlikely as it seems, there is a degree of plausibility. Then there’s the thought of global warming, famine, global unrest over natural resources such as drinking water — Pagans are a minority belief system. When resources become scarce, how long before the thought of one group of people over another for resources begins?

There is another way to view this, in my opinion. We can dream about ten-plus years down the road and how Paganism can be set forth as a vanguard towards respect and care of our planet. I truly believe that this can happen. However, the true start of the future is today. The steps we take today are the ones that echo into eternity.

We have people creating strife and chaos in the name of their beliefs. To my Christian friends, I apologize for painting with a broad brush here, but it helps illustrate the point more clearly. We fight wars in the name of the Christian God, the Jewish God, the Muslim God…why? To spread the dominance of one belief system over another? Really? That’s no different than killing people simply because they are black or Jewish. That’s been done before…and the results were outstandingly disturbing. We fight wars over resources, because those resources give our nation of people an advantage over others. How long before we start having wars over the control of fresh drinking water? In all honesty – not long.

What can we do? How about living our lives as Pagans. You don’t have to claim the title to live the life, ya know? Care for our Earth, find ways to use reusable product packaging, look into sustainable farming for your backyard, be kind to your neighbors, be kind to strangers, be your beliefs. You don’t have to make your neighbors believe in the Gods, the Goddesses or the Spirits of the Land. They can still be Christians, Agnostics, Atheists or whatever – but we can show them a better way of living by following some of our own principles where Mother Earth is concerned. We can show that hunting is good, but over-hunting is a terrible thing. That hospitality is not dead — its just merely slumbering underneath the skin of everyone.

Yes, we are looking to the future of our Paganism — seeing young adults coming to Paganism, and embracing its principles. But those same principles are being embraced by other beliefs and their adherents as well. Its true, we may not have that much time. But I am optimistic enough that I believe that change is about to start — that Pagans have the chance to lead the way into the future. We Pagans of today may have to take a hard, bloody stand against those that view the Earth as a resource to be used, as proclaimed by their holy scripture. And that stand may be here sooner than we think…but there is a foreseeable future, where we work together to make a planet that will be the home of future generations to come.

I am the voice of the next generation…
…Start a revolution now!
–Amaranthe, Digital World

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 /|\

The Future’s So Bright – I Gotta Wear Shades

Happy Green Beer day…or whatever you want to call it.  For me, its Monday.

Clinton Presidential Library – Timeline Display

Took a trip over to the Clinton Presidential Library over in Little Rock this past weekend. Its a really nice place with lots of exhibits and information about Clinton’s two terms in the office of President. He remains my favorite President – and many of the initiatives he helped sponsor and start are near and dear to my heart to this day. The exhibits throughout the facility are an interesting and memorable walk through my own recent past. All of which eventually brought me to wondering about the future of the Pagan community.

There’s no doubt, if you read through the Pagan blogosphere, that there is a lot of thought being placed into how the Pagan community will look beyond the time of many of us older Pagans. And when I define older Pagans, I am referring to people 45 and older who have been on the Pagan Path in one form or another for quite some time (pick your own arbitrary number to define “quite some time”). At 48, its certainly a point that I think on quite a bit. What will the Pagan community look like in the future? Are the seeds that I have helped lay down in various areas take root and grow?

I’m not much of an activist in my life. I abhor politics in any shape or form. I don’t feel a need to tangle with the governments over whatever pet issue comes down the line. They leave me alone, and I will leave them alone. For my life, it really is just as simple as that. I leave the crusades for people that have the time, energy, and will-power to move those endeavours. I have my own belief system. I have cultivated the ways in which I practice, the manner in which I connect to my environment, my own prayers and meditations with the Gods and Kami. When I finally pass beyond the veil into the unknown, what will I leave behind? Whoot footprints will I press into the Earth herself? Does it really matter to anyone other than myself??

Regardless of how I view things from my own perspective, no matter how much I wonder over my own contribution to the Pagan Community…I do see one thing that brings a smile to my face. Young Pagans. Young adults that are exploring what Paganism offers to them, embracing what they find works for them, bringing their own individual spin to what it means to reconnect to our environment. I had the chance to watch and meet quite a few of these younger folks at last year’s Pagan Pride Day here in Dallas. They are dynamic, full of energy, full of ideas, full of enthusiasm, full of awe and wonder…watching them got me to remember when I first took my steps down this Pagan Path back in 1986.

I still wonder where the Pagan community will be in ten years, twenty years, and even thirty years down the road. I helped shape part of it when I was in Germany, where Pagans were given Chapel space on a military installation for the first in 1993. It took a lot of work, not just with the group of Pagans I was a part of in Germany, but also with other Pagans at other military installations around the world. It took some time to show the military commanders that we were not a bunch of flaky individuals bent on sacrificing animals and runaway children in blood rites. It took patience and a bit of persistence. Its a part of my own legacy that I have left to the Pagan community…and I was only a small part of it. Last year, I helped folks with getting Pagan Pride Day back online and running here in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Even there, I was a very small part of it – but in both instances, it took a group of individuals committed to getting something into a working solution. Each individual contributed to the entire cause, no matter how large or how small their individual contribution or effort was.

I see a lot of that same resolve, stick-to-it attitude from these younger Pagans. Certainly, there is an generational gap between myself and some of them – so I don’t necessarily “get” them all the time. But to be completely honest, I don’t need to “get” them either. They approach the Gods and Goddesses in far different ways than I do. They have their own (rightfully so) unique, individual connection to the world around them. They are working on finding avenues and methods that work best for them. The ways in which I make those connections with my environment and the Gods and Goddesses – might be relevant to them, and it might not. Its not for me to shove my perspective in their noses and ask them if they have tried this or not. As the adage states – when the student is ready, the teacher will be revealed. As I often remind myself – who said *I* was going to be the teacher?

No, I cannot predict what the future of the Pagan community will become or how it will evolve. I can see a vision of how *I* would want it to be. But I am not the future. They are. Those younger Pagans, new to this Path, and searching with the Hope and Happiness that comes with finding a new Path through Life. They will follow in my footsteps and the footsteps of others, but eventually, they will find the end of that trail. Where our footsteps stop. And it will be up to them to forge a new Path beyond. And in my heart, I find nothing to be more exciting than that prospect.

Me

These younger Pagans not only excite me, but they impress me as well. They are bright. They see Life from a perspective I have not often considered. I cannot predict the future, but I definitely see the future of the Pagan community in the right hands. In the hands of explorers, Pagans with an innate curiosity. Pagans with a love for their environment. Pagans with a deeply profound respect for all they see. Pagans who can be serious and still find the “fun” in their lives as well. Yes, in my eyes – the future looks so bright – I gotta wear shades.