Howling Into the Wind: A Different Beltane Perspective

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Tommy

Howling Into the Wind: The Draw of Paganism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Tommy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Odysseus, Troy (2004)

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

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

–Tommy

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Depeche Mode, “People Are People”

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

–T /|\

Photo by Lucas Pezeta on Pexels.com

Howling Into the Wind: Wiser and Older But Still Foolish

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

In the Beginning

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

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

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

On-Fire for Paganism

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

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

Stick to the Rules

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

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

Where Does It All Go?

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

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

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

–T /|\