Incomplete Thoughts: The Gods, Worship, and “Appropriation”

Not that long ago, I took a trip to southern Colorado to visit Mesa Verde National Park (among other sites). For me, it was more than a tourist-y trip. I was making a return to a location where I had a personally powerful moment with Crow. Much of that moment was being reminded that while I work with Him, that I am not “of the people.” A simple reminder that I am not a First Nations individual. My personal Spiritual practice was not to mirror or mimic that of the First Nations people. Their ways were not – and are not – my Path to walk. Now, I did make another moment with Crow, as I heaved and gasped my way along a rather steep trail. That was to get into better physical health than I already am. But that’s a thought for another time.

More than once I have been accused of cultural appropriation because I work with Crow and Coyote. One comment that was made to me was that Abnoba is the lane I should be in. Abnoba being a Germanic Goddess – my heritage being European (my mother was German, much of my ancestry comes from mainland Europe and Scandinavia). I have always found it amusing that there are those that try to nudge me back into my “lane,” particularly when I don’t have a “lane.” In the past, I would have argued with these folks…these days, I shake my head, keep my comments to myself, and continue on. All I need to remind myself of is that the Gods call those that They call.

After all, I am not trying to make myself into the image of a white, cis male that wants to play “Indian” around the fire at night. I’m not of the People. I never will be. Their Spiritual practices are not the same as mine. I have no desire to take a place within their culture. I merely work with two of the Gods from their Spirituality. ::shrug::

However, all of this revolves around a perspective of one word: worship. Do I worship Crow, Coyote, Abnoba or any of the other Gods and Goddesses out there? I guess that really depends on how you define the concept of worship. According to Wikipedia (not exactly a top-notch source, but it works for the point of discussion):

Worship is an act of religious devotion usually directed towards a deity. For many, worship is not about an emotion, it is more about a recognition of a God. An act of worship may be performed individually, in an informal or formal group, or by a designated leader. Such acts may involve honoring.

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

So, working from this perspective, do I worship the three Gods I tend to work with? Most assuredly. I honor all three in what I do. Do I wind up prostrate on the ground to venerate Them? No. In working with these three, I have found that They are not looking for such slavish perspectives. They have, in the past, provided me tasks to do for Them here on this plane of existence, which I do gladly to honor Them. I’m not Their equal, but I’m not going to consider myself so far beneath Them that I cannot say “no” to Them.

That’s right. You can say “no” to the Gods. Just like any relationship that you have, you have the free will to say “no.” And in any relationship that you have, that “no” can produce some negative repercussions. Say “no” to your Significant Other about something that they have asked. You might find yourself sleeping on the couch for a couple of days. A negative repercussion, right? Well, it is if you have a couch as lumpy as mine. 😊 when I point out that I work WITH my Gods, it’s a relationship. Its not always a straight-forward one either. Just like any relationship we have with other people. Just like relationships with people, a relationship with the Gods must be cultivated through time. My relationship with Coyote is far different than that of Crow or Abnoba. After all, a relationship is a distinct relationship between two entities. Whether that be people, animals, Gods or whatever else you can bring up.

As I have noted before…my relationship with Crow and Coyote is a unique one between myself and each of Them. I work with Them because They asked. I honor Them because I want to. None of that has me trying to assimilate cultural or Spiritual aspects of First Nations’ peoples. I am not trying to become part of the People. I’m an eclectic Druid. I’m not trying to be a Medicine Man or a Shaman. I’m not attempting to mirror the practices of the People. I’m just trying to get on with my Spiritual Life by taking each day one at a time. Sometimes, one hour at a time. If that’s cultural appropriation in the eyes of someone else – so be it. I can’t control what other people think or believe. Nor would I want to. I’ve got enough worries of my own. I don’t need everyone else’s too.

–Tommy /|\

Incomplete Thoughts: Rainy Days, Experiences, and Jam-Based Discussions

As the weather has started to take a turn towards the rainy – and most likely not today or tonight, but soon – I started to wonder what I would write about this time. So, I put my iTunes on psycho-shuffle. That’s a shuffle that utilizes my entire music collection and does random shuffling through everything. How big is everything? Well, it comes to 15,068 songs that total out in time to approximately 112.9 days. Some of those “songs” are complete albums done up as a single file. Psycho-shuffle is just a way to inspire myself with lots of different music in the background. At this moment, I have “Perfect Strangers” from Deep Purple’s “Come Hell or High Water” playing in the background. I have no idea what will come up after it gets finished – nor do I care.

As I said, the weather is about to take a slow turn to the wetter, which Texas needs. Water from the sky. The sound of rain falling has always been a magickal sound for me. Not to mention the extremely distinct smell of petrichor in the air. For me, these two distinct aspects provide a wonderful basis for the mindset of meditation and ritual. Plus, if I want to let my mind wander, I can easily set myself back in time within my life to various moments that I associate strongly with the sound of rain and the smell of petrichor.

A lot of my empty time has been spent looking back with associated smells and sounds. I have had enough empty time on my hands that I have found myself looking back on various moments within my life. Much of my life really came together in the mid-to-late 1980s, after I had joined the Air Force and started my initial steps on my various Paths within Paganism. Thinking through that time, I have only kept up with a small handful of people from that time. Despite all the time that has passed, these folks are some of my closest family. We might not talk for years on end, but when we do manage to get together – in whatever fashion – its like no time has really passed. I have folks within my OBOD family that fall into that same category. As I think about all the Pagans that have come and gone from my life, these folks make up only a small percentage of that small group. Then, when I add all the non-Pagans that have come and gone through my life, I realize how small of a number all the Pagans are in comparison to the non-Pagans.

So, where am I going with this? Well, I’m not completely sure. This is an exercise of just opening my mind and writing. I made it to this point, where I need to gather my focus. Ok, so I realize that I am looking to place an emphasis on the people that have come, gone and remain within my life. All the varied relationships that I have had – good, bad, indifferent – and the new ones that I will encounter as I continue to move forward in my life. Each of those people, no matter how small of relationship I have had with them – they have all had – and will have – an impression in my life. My Spiritual path is one of experience, and that includes the people I have encountered. Looking through my own struggles with American politics and how it fits into my life, I can remember conversations I have had with various people on that count. The discussions about the differences between Republicans, and Democrats. The differences in approaches that the Green Party, and the Libertarian Party have in that discussion. Why the two-party system holds such a dominant position within the American political system. Why the third parties gain no traction in this political setup. Why its foolish to consider a vote for the third parties to be a “wasted” vote.

That’s just one aspect. I can spend all kinds of time pulling back conversations that I have had with other folks about the Gods, aspects of ritual, baseball (don’t get me started, please), programming (don’t get me started here unless you really want to have that conversation), why I suck at mathematics, and so many more things. While I may not remember the names of the folks that I have had these conversations, I can recall the conversations. As an aside, why do I recall these conversations so easily, but it takes me FOREVER to learn someone’s name? Maybe a thought to explore for another time.

Conversations, interactions – the stuff is essential for me. Sitting out by a fire at night is an ideal location for all of that to happen. The fire provides some illumination, but the darkness also provides some aspects of anonymity too. That anonymity can be ideal when a conversation takes a serious turn. Plus, there’s the extra added observational point of the stars above, unless the weather doesn’t permit that view. But those conversations with other folks is the start of a musical jam for me. Anyone that wants to add to the conversation. Those that choose to be silent are also participating by being there. No matter the total number around the fire, the conversations and interactions are all extemporaneous. We are winging it. There are no rehearsed speeches. There’s all of us adding our unique input. Some serious. Some sad. Some non-sensical. Some humorous. Some supportive. But all added to the jam we are creating together as equal parts.

I know that some folks reading all of this will be scratching their heads wondering what the Nine Hells I am getting on about. There will be other that grok what I am saying. There will be others who “sort of” get it. What I am detailing here is how I learn, how I grow on my own Pagan Path. I know some will think that I am totally off-base because “Paganism has to be done THIS way and this way ONLY.” I grok that concept. I don’t agree with it though. My of learning and growing works for me. It MIGHT work for others, as well. But I am not arrogant enough to think it will work for EVERYONE.

So, I will measure this as an incomplete thought. In the future, I might come back around to this and try to expand and make a clearer picture. However, this is where it is for right now. 😊

–Tommy /|\

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Incomplete Thoughts on Baseball, Empirical Pagan Me, and Nature

Incomplete Thoughts – 07102021

Incomplete Thoughts is a semi-regular feature. This features smaller written pieces that I just cannot find any way to end them, thus the incomplete part. Plus, it can provide some insight into the way I view other things outside of my Spiritual practice.

Major League Baseball

The coming trade deadline and the first-year amateur draft process is about to begin. For Major League Baseball, this is the latest that the first-year player draft has occurred, and the closest that it has been to the trade deadline, which will make things hectic in any major league team’s front office. There are a lot of teams that are deemed to be “sellers” at this year’s deadline, and the most intriguing element is that of the Chicago Cubs. Somehow, their front office has managed to have a few of their major stars on expiring contracts at the end of this year. Most major league teams will stagger the end of the contracts of major league stars to lower the impact potential departures have on the team. However, the Cubs have managed to make that major misstep. Or is it? The Cubs have one of the most knowledgeable front office teams in major league baseball (and it pains me as a Cincinnati Reds fan to make that statement). I wonder if this coming trade deadline was a self-imposed thing by the front office, looking for a way to clear the path of some minor league players, while utilizing high-impact players to help re-stock some of the upper levels of their minors system. Regardless of the strategy, the Cubs will prove to be one of the teams to watch carefully during the deadline.

Empirical Pagan Me

Occasionally, I get asked why I don’t speak for Pagan practice everywhere. Why do I couch nearly every statement that I make about my Spirituality as what I do, and that others may be completely different? Most of the time, all I can do is shrug my shoulders, and move on. But the reasoning is simple. I’m one Pagan. I am not THE Pagan. The way I approach my Spirituality works for me. As an individual, I’m always cognizant of the perspective that I don’t always do things the way others do. That’s a part of being an individual, in my mind. When I was futzing around in Christianity, back in my early twenties, every single Christian congregation that I visited and spent time with did things differently than the others. Even within the same Christian Path. However, instead of embracing their differences as a unique perspective that worked for them, many adherents would claim that it was “the only way to worship God.” To my twenty year-ish self, the suggestion that there was only one way to approach Divinity just didn’t jibe with what I saw in the world around me. So, it was easy to reject their perspective and continue to move on to find my own – which eventually was Paganism, where I have wandered for thirty-plus years. Druidry works for me, and the framework utilized by the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids comes closest to what I feel comes “naturally” to me. I have no desire to slap down someone else’s approach to their aspect of Divinity – whether that be Monotheistic, Polytheistic (where I am), or whatever else you might have. So long as you do not harm others in the name of your beliefs, I see no issues. Harm others? Well, I’ll be standing up against that. Everyone has a right to live…and live the way that they choose. We can all be different without being violent. We only have to choose that.

Herbs, Plant Magick and the Such

Probably not a popular opinion in Pagan or even Druid circles, but I don’t do much in the area of working with herbs or doing so-called “Plant Magick” (I tend to refer to it as “gardening with intent” but that’s a slight slide from the conversation). I guess most Pagans would be shocked that a Druid doesn’t do much in this. However, its just not for me. My idea of being within Nature is just being alive. I like to take walks through the woods and am prone to picking up trash that I see, so it can be disposed of properly later one. Believe me, here in the States, there is trash literally EVERYWHERE. Seemingly, things just fall out of our hands as we walk through nature or magically fly out of our car windows on the highways and interstates that we travel. I saw trash in Europe, but not on the scale we see here. My idea of working with Nature falls more along the lines of being a caretaker of sorts. I am not here to trim back the verge, as it were. But I will pick up the trash of others, so that the natural growth of the world continues. After all, we’re all a big part of the cycle of living. If we do our part, maybe things around the world will get better in terms of climate and pollution. What if our efforts are for naught, and we did all this stuff anyways? Well, then we did our best to be stewards of our planet and tried our best to provide a better planet for the generations that come after us.

Well, thanks for reading another installment of incomplete thoughts. Hopefully, you enjoyed what you read. Maybe some of it even made you think. Even if it was just a single thought: “That Tommy dude is WEIRD.” 😊

–Tommy

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Incomplete Thoughts: Why Are Pagans So Poor?

Every few years, I see someone bring up the lack of money that seems to be within the Pagan community at large. “Why does it seem that Pagans are always so poor?” My guess that there are many answers to this question. However, a lot of those answers are pre-pandemic. With COVID-19 arriving, many people were furloughed or laid off (essentially the same thing) from their jobs. Before the pandemic kicked in, I was already on unemployment and looking for a job. When the pandemic became a major issue with employment, I got added into the temporary federal benefits. This past Saturday, my moronic governor here in Tejas determined that these benefits were keeping people from getting back to finding employment. That type of logic thinking is a load of privileged bullshit. Most people have been trying to find jobs that are not exploitive, low-paying wage positions with no chances of upward mobility within a company. But that’s another thought altogether.

Why does it always seem that Pagans are so damn poor? Or is it just an illusion? Looking around at other folks in other areas of Spirituality, the feeling that most people are poor seems to be prevalent there as well. Maybe its not so much that people are poor, but that in our current overly greedy capitalist society, people are trying to make their money stretch further while prices continue to soar unabated. Many folks have families, and believe me, kids cost money. Clothes, school supplies, recreational sports equipment, books, and the list can go on and on. Prices soar, but wages do not climb on a similar scale. What passed as a seemingly capable yearly wage at $30k just doesn’t cut it anymore today for a family of four – or even three. Due to the rising costs of transportation, we are seeing food prices climb even more. That’s understandable under a capitalist perspective. Costs that get added to the company get passed on to the consumer. Then again, I’m not economist, nor do I play one on tv or even the radio.

Perhaps, some Pagans seem to be poor because they have decided to step out of the capitalism whirlpool. They make their money in smaller ways – farmer’s markets, Renaissance faires, and maybe even Pagan gatherings. Maybe they make their livings online, teaching online classes for those wanting the information and perspective of theirs. I know for a fact that there’s not a lot of money in that realm. They may seem to be poor, but they are living the way that they wish. To them, it may be the richest lifestyle ever.

So, everyone that offers classes, writes books, creates things, offers services – they should do that stuff for free, right? Well, no. They should be compensated for what they provide. Perhaps in trade, if the terms are equal in the eyes of those involved in the transaction. However, we shouldn’t look down on those who are asking for compensation of any form for what they are providing. I have heard the snide remark that the “Craft should not be sold”. Sorry, that’s a load of bullshit. If you don’t think that what is being offered is worth you parting with your hard-earned cash – move along without comment. Or – maybe you can try and barter for a lower price. Just don’t be offended if the lower price is rejected. Don’t argue about it either. Just thank them for the potential to discuss the issue and move along without being crappy about it all.

This is probably not a popular opinion, but I see the question of “Why does it always seem that Pagans are so poor?” to be a rather elitist question. The question comes across – to me, anyways – as wondering why other Pagans just can’t seem to compete on your level within a capitalist agenda. A long time back, my mother reminded a teen-aged me that you cannot truly understand someone else’s life until you have walked a few miles in their tennis shoes.

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Incomplete Thoughts: Diversity

Lately, I have been plagued in my writing by what I call “incomplete thoughts” which are simply blog posts that I can’t find a way to conclude. These are usually shorter than the small essays I try to write, and I have a small clutter of these hanging around. Since I already use Thursday postings as the typical place for ‘Bad Poetry Thursdays” which happen infrequently, I thought it would be a nice change of pace from time to time to add “Incomplete Thoughts” to that mix as well.

I like diversity. Not just with race or gender or what have you, but with everything. I like my politics to be a diverse set of perspectives, not just Right-wing or Left-wing. I want to hear from those perspectives in-between and even further Left and Right. In my opinion, a wide range of perspectives makes for better decision-making and opinion-forming. America’s dominant two-party system just sucks. I prefer lots of musical styles. A wide variety of musical viewpoints is refreshing. I love Jazz, in all its forms, Classical, neo-Classical, Hard Rock, Heavy Metal, Pop Rock, County and Western, Swing, Ballroom, Rhythm and Blues, some Rap, and a lot more. Each style, each presentation of musical and lyrical content helps me to see deeper into a wider world of Awen than I could ever have dreamed on my own. Diverse perspective provides clashes where two (or more) perspectives cannot ordinarily mesh. That conflicting perspective provides more than one way to look at things, and allows the spectator (me, you, or others) a glimpse of the differences. Those differences provide a perspective that we can utilize to determine what does and does not work for us individually. Those differences help us to make choices for ourselves.

What I am not for is using diversity to make choices that can be utilized to drive deeper wedges between “Us” and “Them”. We saw a lot of that during the last Presidential cycle. Both sides making charges that you either vote for (x) candidate or you are against us. I opted out of that silly game. I see value in every individual – even those that think and act differently than I. We all inhabit this same planet. We all breathe the same (somewhat polluted) air. Whether we agree with it or not, we all survive together. What a shame that we cannot collectively agree enough to bring and end to violent conflict as a means to solve our differences. While I value diversity, I agonize over our lack of humanity – our lack of decency towards one another – our lack of compassion for those that are different than we are. But I still hold out hope. Because if I didn’t…I don’t even want to think about that.

–Tommy

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