Thinking About: I’m Still Lousy With the Tarot

It is no secret that most of my daily Pagan and Druid path does not include magick or even divination tools such as the Tarot. I have always had a certain level of reluctance when things start to bend in those directions, but not because I lack the ability for such things. My reticence comes from a lack of experience. That, and my strong belief that I have no need to add my own push to whatever the Universe is going to bring about. I view magick, divination, and many other aspects of the Pagan Path to be tools. But tools that are a last resort after you roll up your sleeves and get on with the work that is stacked up directly in front of you.

This is also an area that I do not readily discuss with others. As such, I do not have a lot of information to gauge against my own to determine how common my approach may or may not be. I just know that it is my own way of seeing things in the overlay of the land as it is set before me.

Oddly enough, I have had a frame of mind that equates magickal usage as something common and everyday in the life of a Pagan. Sort of like the moment where Anakin Skywalker uses his force powers to cut up food for Padmé Amidala in one of the Star Wars movies. Where magick is one of the first tools that a Pagan might reach for. This is probably a silly thought, and my approach that magick is kept as a tool of last resort is probably more appropriate and practical within the Pagan community at large. However, I have no empirical data to back up that perspective from either direction.

Not that long ago, I took some initial steps into the Tarot, which resulted in a particular interpretation of a reading that I did for myself. Well, I found out how bad I am at doing readings using the Tarot. Going back to that reading, which was done in early October of last year, I can see where I misinterpreted certain aspects because I was certainly too close to the subject matter to come back with a concrete meaning. In other words, I was too close to the forest to see the trees. That has brought me around to the notation that I am excruciatingly bad at doing Tarot readings. I have heard that doing readings for one’s self should be far easier to manage than those for others. There is no way that I would ever unleash my horrible interpretations onto others, particularly when I have become to realize how bad I am at it with myself.

However, I also now that experience helps attune one’s self to a task at hand. Thus, I am not throwing the Tarot tool into the trash and labeling it as “useless.” Rather, I have labeled it as “unrefined” at this point and have started looking at ways to fine tune what I am trying to do. I know its not the deck, The Celtic Tarot has provided good readings – particularly at one-card draws, which I have been using to refine my knowledge of the cards themselves. Perhaps, I need to look to other layouts to see what might work better for me. Or perhaps, I need to loosen up the interpretations I have made a bit more, so as not to make my readings so uber-specific. Whatever the case may be, I am trying different approaches, methodologies…and going into the future, maybe even a different card set. However, at this point, I do have to remind myself that I am the ultimate day-on novice at all of this – and not be too hard on myself over the stumbles and failures. Learning takes time. Time means patience. I am not going to be a Tarot expert over-night, that is for sure. 😊

However, all of this does remind me… everyone has these moments. Moments where they fail at something that they thought would be easy to put into practice, easy to be excellent at immediately – only to be sitting in the dust, wondering how the Nine Hells you got there. Being humbled in a manner like this is a royal kick in the pants, so to speak. But it is also a lesson. One can be confident in their ability to learn, but not so over-confident as to over-extend one’s weight over one’s skis. Yep, learned that lesson in the sixth grade. Skiing. Broke my tibia and fibula in my left leg. Wore a hip-high cast for nearly two months. My over confidence of my ability to ski was the cause of my injury. I was the only kid to suffer an injury during that trip. The only kid whose parents had to drive down to where we had gone on our trip to bring me home. For a sixth grader… it was quite a blow to the ego. Even if my fellow classmates were all more than gracious about it. There are all sorts of places you can find these little lessons…and most of them aren’t even magickal or even Pagan in nature.  😉

I will continue my journey to learn about the Tarot and how to use this tool in my daily Path. I will learn as much as I can, but I know there will be so many others that learn more than I do. That’s awesome though. Because they learned as much as they could. We are all individual from one another. Our strengths are often different. The depth of our learning in a variety of subjects is as varied as the material presented. I will eventually discover my depth in the Tarot. Right now, I have only got one toe in the water. And I can’t even tell if the water is cold or hot. At least not yet.

–T /|\

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If That Makes Me a Teacher….

Not that long ago, I was asked why I do not have any students. I was flattered by the question, as someone thinks highly enough of me to believe I would be a good teacher or mentor to other Pagans. However, my response went along the lines of not really being qualified to teach anyone anything – except for myself. I really hate giving responses like that, but there is a seed of truth encased in there. I am not sure I would be what anyone would expect of a Pagan teacher. To put it in a different way, I would be the most unlikely teacher around. Sort of like Mr. Miyagi in the first Karate Kid movie. Just an awkward, ill-conceived set of approaches to topical matters.

Why would I say that about myself? Because I know what works for me. I am also aware of how it does not work for most others. The old saying goes along the lines of “when the student is ready, the teacher will come” – or conversely – “when the teacher is ready the student will come.” For me, any student that could conceivably work under the approaches that I use – well that one student may have to break one of my knees to get me to notice.

I am very flattered by the idea that I would be a good teacher. I am more amiable to the notion that one day I might make a good mentor. Not necessarily a teacher, but more of a guide for someone that is learning on their own. Someone that they could come to with questions when they get stuck on something. Naturally, I would be upfront about my own limitations. Magick is not, nor has it ever been my forte’. I can help in a crude measure of understanding, but someone looking for a smooth, sophisticated approach would do better searching elsewhere. Or, if they would like, I could point them in directions and towards people that I think would be helpful. Granted, some of those people may hold low opinions or even harbor anger towards me, but I don’t take people’s opinions of me into account when trying to help someone else find a better guide. Go to this or that individual – just don’t mention my name. 😊

To a point, I am confused why people would find me to be a good teacher. Its not like I am placing myself into a position that would advertise me as such. I have yet to offer a class of any sort – online or face-to-face – to the Pagan community at large. I have not taken a single student for one-on-one teaching. I have; however, taught in a collegiate classroom (for nearly three years), but I don’t see how that would ever bring me to the forefront of a conversation of who would be a good teacher. Plus, my approach to learning is to hand you the same resources that I used, tell you to go read, and when you felt like coming back – we could have an in-depth conversation. That’s it. No tests. No quizzes. No certificate of completion. No final assessment of whether you were a top student or just someone that barely made the grade, in my opinion. Just a discussion, held at your convenience. Preferably around a fire, late at night, out where we can see the stars as we hold our discourse. My kind of classroom.

I guess a lot of that comes from my perspective of learning about Paganism. Its not something you can get out of a book. A book should lead your mind to more questions, and a desire to explore for answers. A book should have you wanting to try to do things rather than learning my theory of how to do things. For me, learning about Paganism was about reading, questioning, doing, experiencing, being…. I didn’t need an individual who would sit and endlessly lecture to me about their way of doing things. They would talk about how they did it. If I had questions, I asked. Afterwards, I went out and did it…myself. I didn’t need their approval over any twists or changes or additions that I put to it. I took their framework and built my own on to it. In the end, it might look nothing like what they “taught” – and that didn’t matter to me, so long as it held meaning to what I was doing.

I will honestly and openly admit that many people will find the way I approach my Paganism to be distasteful and unappealing to them. Because I chose to discard traditional aspects for things that work for me. Because I set aside pre-printed rituals that arrive via the post office, in favor of embracing the moment. But I will also acknowledge that whatever works for them, works for them. I am more than thrilled that these methodologies work for them, because it provides an authentic feeling and connection to the world around them, a valid and strong connection with their Gods. There is no fucking way I would ever want to discount any of that for them, simply because they use a methodology that is not mine. That would be disingenuous to what Paganism is about to me, what true Paganism should be all about: the individual’s experience. Their connection with the authentic passion of their own practice – whatever it looks like.

My personal approach to my own Paganism, my own Druidry is uniquely mine. Parts of what I do overlap with the practices of others. While I feel the draw of being a mentor to others, I am not entirely sure what that would look like, considering the deep personal aspect that my approach holds for me. Perhaps, I will eventually find that one student that can meaningfully learn from my approach, and together we can explore what it means to teach that to others. In the meantime, the only way that I know to do this, is just to be myself. If that makes me a teacher…I am just as surprised as anyone else.

–T /|\

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We All Learn At Our Own Pace

“I can’t learn this stuff, I’m taking too long.”

I heard this a lot when I was working on my Bardic lessons from the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids. And I could truly understand the frustration, as well as the bitterness over the constant stopping and starting that was taking place while trying to learn. The slow pace was being compounded by everyday life getting in the way. Having to work late. Yard work. A constant need to bring work from the job back to the home, just to get caught up. I understood the frustrating nature quite well. That’s because the person experiencing those troubles was me.

When I got my lessons in the mail from OBOD, I always did my best to get through them before the next mailing would arrive. Life; however, had a different plan. When I started, I was an adjunct instructor for the college. Typically, I had anywhere from twenty to nearly a hundred students whose assignments I had to continually read, grade, correct, and comment on before I returned the assignments. Then, I accepted a position as an Institutional Researcher for the college, which removed me from the classroom. I lived less than two miles from the campus I taught on. My new job put me on the main campus, which was a forty-five minute drive – one-way. In the summer-time, the college went to four days a week of work. Each of these days was ten hours of work. My entire time was raised to nearly fourteen hours per day with the driving in rush hour traffic. That meant I essentially woke up, made breakfast, drove to work, did my job, drove back, made dinner, and went to sleep. The next three days – Friday, Saturday and Sunday – were typically reserved for housework, yard work, medical appointments and any other errands that needed to be taken care of. So to alleviate all of that, I moved to be closer to the job. Getting things together for the move, that all ate into the time that I had to complete my studies as well, until I had developed a routine of setting my studies to the side. See? Life got in the way.

When I made it to the first OBOD Gulf Coast Gathering camp, there was a meeting setup for all the Bardic students. Here, I found a few others had struggled with the balance of mundane life and studies while others seemingly had no problem. I learned a few techniques to getting things completed, but one notation stuck with me: everyone learns at their own pace. There is no time limit to the lessons because of this. You learn at your own pace. And that currently is a reminder to me as I work through my Ovate studies, which are decidedly not as much as the Bardic studies were. That presents a new set of challenges to my mind. Getting through lessons that have a much weaker call to me.

Don’t get that statement wrong. I am not about to stop on my Ovate studies. I am merely indicating that the challenge of making it through these studies comes from a different place than before. And as I did make it through my Bardic studies, I will make it through my Ovate studies. I am finding that I need to determine a different perspective to get there.

Most people, it seems, look at the course work and see a daunting set of lesson plans set before them. A booklet of material that is broken down into what feels like a set of lesson plans. And seemingly an internal self-realized clock that says – you can do it in a year. Maybe that needs to be changed to: you SHOULD do it in a year because I never found anything that suggested that I should complete my studies in any specified time frame. “Everyone learns at their own pace.” My firm belief is that this is where folks develop a mental road block, that they feel they must overcome. When they don’t – because Life gets in the way – they become paralyzed, not knowing what to do and their abaility to progress is just shot.

I can understand where this comes from. In all the schooling that we have had – there’s a time limit for everything. Lessons have deadlines to be submitted. Tests have a specified time frame in which they must be completed. You must move forward each year within grade progression: first grade, second grade, ninth grade, until you graduate with a high school diploma. Yearly progression matters for everything. In college, you get a number of courses you must complete before moving on to the next progression of courses, until you meet all the requirements for your degree. If you fail, you get held back, and your graduation date gets pushed back another semester, because you have to complete that course with a satisfactory grade. Deadlines. Submission dates. Course start dates. Course end dates. Expected graduation dates. All of that leads to dealing with deadlines in the work place. You begin to live your life under a set of self-imposed deadlines. Things have to be done by this date. And this becomes the default for how you handle your life and it creeps into your new-found learning: your Druidry studies.

Except that you don’t have to approach it that way. Learning Druidry, Wicca, whatever Spiritual path you are on is not about the grade or title you attain. Yeah, I’ve made it past my Bardic grade. I’m on my Ovate grade. I have a desire to finish the Ovate grade and progress to the Druid grade. I have a desire to finish that….for what? Yes, I get to say that I am a Druid that completed the OBOD coursework for the three grades. But is that what I am trying to attain? Some sort of bragging rights?

Certainly, working through the three grades is an important part of my Spiritual Path. And yes, I will have a manner of fulfillment at finishing the three grades. But it won’t make me any more important than I am now. It may place me in a position where I can get a chance to work with other OBOD folk going through the courses, to help guide them towards fulfilling their own goals and desires over what the coursework is for. As a former instructor, I always loved the moments where I saw students’ have that little light of understanding get “turned on.” Always a great feeling, especially when I got them to understand that I didn’t turn their light on – they did. I only helped them to understand where they might find that switch within themselves. But that’s only a side desire of doing my work in the grades. My first desire is to become a better “me” through the work. To learn and experience what I can through the course work. This is about altering aspects of myself into something that I want to become.

I don’t keep an altar in the house. This is as close as it gets.

I have a desire to be a Druid and I am one. This is my Path. No title is going to make me into a Druid. I already am a Druid. The course work is going to help me become a more effective, more knowledgeable Druid. And my progression towards effectively working on myself through the lessons, through the camaraderie that I have with other Druids I encounter at OBOD camps, Pagan Pride Days, and other gatherings…that will happen on schedule. At my pace. I still have other requirements in my everyday life that I need to continually address. My work, my everyday life at home, my position as a friend in the lives of others, being there for those that need that shoulder to lean on or that ear to bend….all of that is me. But I continue to learn about my Druidry, how it relates to me, how it relates to the world around me…and even after I finish my Druid grade with OBOD, my learning will continue through the rest of my life, and beyond the veil when I pass (which I hope is a long, long time from now).

This Path is about constantly experiencing, learning and evolving. Deadlines be damned. I build myself at my pace. Sometimes, I need to stop and take a break. Short or long, that break will be something that I needed, so that I could refresh my perspective. So that I could see the world with fresh eyes. The pace I set on this Path is mine. Some people want to sprint down the Path. Good for them. They are doing what they feel they need to. For me, I prefer to walk down the path at what others may lament is a leisurely pace. I like to stop from time to time, lean on my staff, and take in the view around me. No matter the landscape, I can find beauty in it. And beauty needs to be experienced and admired. Those moments are certainly necessary. We walk (or sprint as the case may be) our Paths at our own paces. So, the next time you are having trouble with learning a guitar passage for a song you want to add to your musical quiver….set the guitar down. Take a break. Come back to it in a bit with fresh eyes and fresh fingers. Having trouble with a bit of programming. Save the code where you are at. Document where you are, so you can recall what you were trying to do when you come back. Put on a movie and lose yourself in the story’s experience. Or get some much needed sleep. Do something to give your mind a break. However long that break may be.

Stop trying to live your entire existence on a set of self-imposed deadlines. There will always be deadlines in parts of our mundane life. That doesn’t mean we have to impose those deadlines elsewhere. I’ve been there. I have done that. Trust me, its an empty existence. You rush through everything trying to reach those deadlines and zoom right past the real knowledge in those lessons – OBOD, Life or otherwise – and you miss something that you needed. It took my seven years to get through my Bardic Grade. The first four years, I struggled with the lessons, going back and forth in the lessons so that I could understand. “We all learn at our own pace.” I spent the last three years taking my time and learning at my own pace. At first it felt frustrating moving so slow, but soon I fell into the rhythm that worked for me. Eventually, I finished, and found myself looking into the Path of Ovate, where I find myself learning more deliberately. While the lessons are not what stirs my soul, it is knowledge that I need to work with, accumulate and accustom myself to. I work and experience at a pace appropriate for me. Deliberate steps on an appropriate Path. Taking the time to stop and marvel at the beauty all around me. “We all learn at our own pace.”

–T /|\

Teaching and Learning, My Way

For about the last six weeks, I have been peppered with questions asking if I was going to do what other Pagans have started to do – teaching online. I have tried to be light-hearted about the potential idea – but the true reality is that I am not the kind of teacher that folks would really get much out of way. My way of teaching follows the same perspective of how I learn – it’s about discussion and experience. Honestly, theory blows by itself because there is nothing tangible to hold on to until you try it out. That turns theory into experience and puts this right into my wheelhouse. Makes sense? No? Perhaps, I need to dig a little deeper into how I teach and how I learn…and why this way makes sense to me.

For a little more than three years, I taught Intro to Information Systems in a collegiate setting. The first semester I taught, I had four classes and stuck hard to the material. However, once I got the idea of what the author of the Gods-awful textbook that was assigned to the class was trying to convey – I started adding my own spin to things. I wanted to convey to the students how information systems affected their lives daily in a manner that they never really realized was taking place. I brought in examples of new computer technology, along with computer technology from back in my early hey-day in the 8-bit world. I wanted them to not only see the difference in the early technology versus the new, which afforded them a good, strong look at micronization, but I wanted them to physically hold and inspect the items for themselves. Being able to hold the technology and physically appreciate the differences is about experiencing what is there.

I also spiced up some of the lessons with stories of what I did in my days working in Information Technology Operations. As I told them in class, if there was a way to do it wrong – I’ll bet that I did it. For some of them, being able to find solutions to errors and mistakes – by making errors and mistakes – was a signal that absolute accuracy was not something that could be achieved. If you want an awesome example of that – go back a few years here in the blog and check out my horrid typing mistakes.

And all of that is how I learn best. Regurgitating information from a text or lesson plan teaches me nothing, except to memorize information for the short term. I cannot tell you how much I have learned over a high school diploma, Bachelor’s degree, and two Master’s degrees that I have forgotten shortly after I no longer had a need of that knowledge. I retain what I need to know and lose the stuff that has no real application to what I am trying to complete. I had a strong, wonderful education in Catholic history, theology, and teachings when I was in high school. I wasn’t even a Catholic and I understood things far better than most of my classmates. I graduated high school in 1984 – I can tell you right now, that my recall of that knowledge has been next-to-zero. I started on my Pagan Path in late 1986 and set aside everything I had learned about Catholicism – it just wasn’t important to me any longer…and remains in that category to this day.

I do a lot of code writing in my professional life. I have certain aspects of code memorized. Others, I don’t use as often, so I keep a lot of the code I have written over the years – so I can bring my mind back to it. I have programs that I have written in Pascal, C, C+, C++, SQL, and a few variants of BASIC. I am not a proficient programmer, since I do not understand a lot of the programming language’s syntax, but I understand the logical pattern of loops, structured programming blocks and modular programming. I don’t understand development concepts such as Agile, because I have no need for it. I know how to tackle a program’s basic constructs and move on from there.

How did I manage all of that? Trial and error – basic experience. People have often asked me why I don’t do magick workings or spell work. It’s simple. I see those as a nuclear option – essentially a last resort. I try to solve things with my hands, my brain and my sweat first. Nine-Hundred-and-ninety-nine times out of a thousand, one of those methods or a combination of some sort tends to achieve the results I want. Magick and spell-work I hold off for that one chance in a thousand….and then, I still must ask myself if I want to travel down that route. In other words, do I really need it.

I know the question…why not teach? Because my idea of teaching Druidry and Paganism is more about sitting with you around a late-night campfire and having a casual conversation. On what? You pick the topic. You pick the starting point. Over the course of the conversation, I can assure you that we will wander all over the place – and hit whatever topic you want. But here’s the real hitch to things: I don’t have any answers for you. You’ll find that those are inside of you and have been all the time – you just needed to talk it out with someone that you trust and understand, that would presumably me. Why, I am not sure…but hey, it’s a hypothetical situation. What does it cost? Maybe two or three beers. And a little time. And trusting enough to open yourself to a healthy conversation. To me, this is what teaching is about. Not pouring information INTO you, but helping you get OUT of you what’s already in there and that you instinctively know.

See, teaching online isn’t really the grandest perspective for me. Other folks are wanting to give you knowledge. I just want to talk with you. I cannot see charging you a single dime for something we can do for free on the front porch swing at your house. I’m not arrogant enough to think my ideas and perspective are any better than the folks down the road. The difference is simply that I am here, and you feel trusting enough to talk with me. I’m no guru. I’m no leader. I’m nobody special. I’ve just been on my Pagan Path long enough to keep the drama out of my life as much as I can, and to know when an experience is one I shouldn’t step into. That took time to learn. The only way you’re going to learn it, is to grab that hot pot handle and burn yourself. That’s how you’ll know.

–T /|\

Diving Deeply – Attempting a Different Approach at Learning

 

Crossposted at Moon Books Blogs at:  http://moon-books.net/blogs/moonbooks/?p=4393-2
With the coming change from one calendar year to another, there is always the desire to look back and place judgment on what was and was not accomplished in one’s last twelve months. There are all kinds of desires, goals, and needs that people try to attach to their lives – mostly specific, some more generic. We want to lose weight, stop cussing, make more money, get a better job, find true and everlasting love, eat healthier, do better rituals, cast stronger spells, become more of an activist for whatever cause we deem worthy (whatever that means), and the lists can go on and on. But we tend to find many of these “promises” to be shallow. Most of them are forgotten in a few weeks, as we settle back into routines that we have carefully cultivated over many years. And maybe that is the primary key to all of this – the planting, care-taking, and growth of routines that emphasize and strengthen the goals that we want to have. This was a thought process I started a few months back, around the time of Samhain – the time frame that I consider the true turning of the wheel. Over the last (approximately) sixty days, I have been tweaking various aspects of my life, trying to tune into where I wanted to go, and how I wanted to get there.
It is no secret that I work in a data-related field at a small two-year college in north Texas. One of my desires was to integrate lower-cost tools into my daily work practice, in order to provide more data-driven results to upper management, which would help them make better decisions that could potentially derive more successful results for the college as a whole. My choice of tool to learn has been R, a statistical processing application that can be utilized for a lot of different things. My experience with it, thus far, has been minimal. Mostly because I had very little idea of how to apply it to my everyday work. I needed to get a deeper understanding of what R was, what it was capable of, and then attempting to apply those techniques to my everyday work.
 
Another facet of my daily life that I have been working is my Ovate Grade work within the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids. I am only a few lessons in and already frustrated by the lack of progress I have made. My original intention was to move along using a calendar-based technique – where each lesson took (x) number of days. I found that I had severely underestimated the time frame necessary to work with what I had. And I broke a vow to myself not to restart the process of these lessons, and have reverted back to my first lessons. However, before I started, I decided to take the opportunity to try a different approach. I decided to go deeper into what I was learning and forget about the “how long” approach. However long it takes, is however long it will take.
 
In these sixty days, I started looking at my own concept of goals for both of these centers of knowledge. With the R material, I realized fairly quickly that I had unrealistic expectations of how I was and how quickly I could assimilate new knowledge. I needed to scrap everything I knew (and loathed) about statistical methodologies, strip it all down to the basic essentials, and rebuild from that point. As I am a very visual learner, I started to flowchart how I would get to where I needed to be to use R in a very basic sense. There are no waypoints in terms of time. It only took a few days to realize what a trap that was, and how that would only set me up for failure. I have a goal of learning R and putting it to practical use within my daily job routines. Whether that happens in March of 2018, 2019 or 2025 makes no difference to me. It is putting it to practical use within my job skillsets that matters to me. This is not a race against the clock, rather this is a desire to learn, grow, and mature a new technology and process into my world.
 
Once I managed to realize this for R, putting this into a format for my approach to my Ovate studies was fairly easy. The material is different, the application is different, but the overall sentiment is essentially the same. I wish to learn the Ovate material to improve my knowledge as a Druid utilizing the framework of OBOD. Through that knowledge, I will also improve my connection to the environment around me, as well as the environments beyond this physical one. My desire is to be the best Druid and Priest that I can be. There is no timeframe for this, merely a need to keep my desire to learn, grow and mature on this Path fed as it should be. 
 
With those formats in place, written out in my two journals that will serve as the records of what I learn and how I grow, I have spent the past few days resting from that effort and thinking about my plans – as well as what resources I will need to help me along the way. I would be foolish to think I could undertake this completely alone. There places on the internet that I can go to seek help with any R-related issue I encounter. In my Druidry studies, there are a handful of OBOD members that I could go to ask questions of. In both cases, I do not expect either of them to provide the answers to me for any of those questions. Furthermore, I have plenty of books from authors whose opinions I respect highly (many of whom have published with Moon Books), as well as magazines such as “Pagan Dawn”, where I can read articles on a variety of subjects that can also be helpful to my approach. With all of that said, let’s face a small reality, shall we?
 
No one is ever going to hand you anything in life. You want something, you are going to have to do the work associated with it. I want to learn R and use it heavily in my workplace. I will have to learn the programming language that governs it, as well as how to apply the R application to solve problems in the work environment, as well as understanding what problems it will be useful in solving, and which it would be inappropriate for. There will be no R Angel or Demon on my shoulder telling me what to try and not try. I am going to have to figure all that out on my own, through trial and error. By doing, observing, and failing. 
 
The same can be said for any aspect of my Spirituality. How I approach Paganism, Polytheism and Druidry are my own. Even if I do not choose to approach any of that. The decision of how, where, why, and when is my own. And with Crow in my life, I have to add one more thought to this:  should you feel the calling of a God or Goddess pulling you towards Their service, cajoling you towards Priesthood….remember this: if you accept, you are accepting the sole responsibility of the workload that will be expected of you. being called to be a Pagan or a Polytheist and be reverent of the Gods is one thing. Being pulled into the service of a God or Goddess is another matter altogether.
 
This is merely my opinion, but if all you are into something – a degree, a certificate program, a Spiritual training regimen – is for the piece of paper that acknowledges your effort towards completing assignments, tasks, classes, etc., then you are approaching it with the wrong frame of mind. Don’t get me wrong, I have two Masters degrees and a Bachelors degree, along with two (and in February, the third and final certification) professional certifications from a state-acclaimed organization for Institutional Researchers. The accolade you receive is a wonderful thing, and something to be celebrated, but it should never shadow the knowledge you gained from the classes, assignments, and training you received. For instance, the OBOD training program I am currently in has three levels – Bard, Ovate and Druid. I finished Bard. I am working on Ovate. I have a desire to finish Ovate, and work and finish my Druid level as well. But I also have to take into account that I may find that I have no need to finish Ovate and/or Druid. That wherever I manage to reach may be enough knowledge for me to be who I am. I certainly hope that’s not the case, but it is a possibility. And if it becomes a reality, I will be fine and content with that moment. But that’s not where I am at this moment. My goal is to finish. When?  I am not completely sure, but I am willing to work towards it and look forward to figuring that as I move forward.
The processes I have outlined are what works for me. I derived a lot of this from another concept called “diving deeply,” where an individual immerses themselves in the learning process for a technique, tool or skillset. My desire here is to make learning and using R as a part of my daily workflow, so that I can determine what works well for what I do on a daily basis, as well as what does not. My Ovate grade progression will also become a part of my daily routine, utilizing free-time at work, as well as time before and after my daily work. I am not going to just do the lessons and move on, I am going to take a few steps further – finding ways to implement some of the lessons as daily routines within my life. Some will find permanence in my life, some won’t. But I won’t know which is which until I try.
If you decide to give some aspect of this a try and it works for you….please teach it to others. For some, it may not work or be useful. Everybody learns differently. I am an “expert” on what does and does not work for me, and I hope that this methodology will prove useful for me so that I can add it to my own toolbox. But the only way you will find out if it does or does not work for you – is to try it. And whether it does or does not work for you, I hope that it does enlighten you in one way or another.
–T /|\

 

It is Still About the Hard Work

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First before, I get going too far, I want to thank Oh My Gods! for the use of the above strip in this blog. I have been a long-time fan of the strip, and am really thrilled to be given permission to utilize this particular strip for this blog post. I happened across this today (September 18th) in my Facebook feed, and realized that this would work perfectly with this particular post. Visit all the folks over at Oh My Gods! and relax with some of the best Pagan-oriented comedy I have ever read. Again, many thanks to the folks there for the use of this, much appreciated.

9352206759_c8d7e8963b_zSo, many folks within Paganism have had a similar moment that Victor is having here. They spend their forty-five bucks for some form of instruction in a magickal tradition and have all the secrets available to them. Or, in my own current case, they have spent their money and received their monthly Gwers lessons from OBOD. They rip the package open (carefully, so you don’t rip any part of the booklets, leaflets or whatever may be contained within the packing), leaf through the pages of the information, or listen to the recorded lessons contained within, and it happens….the magickal osmosis begins and the information is leaked into a corner of their brain meats. And their magickal hit points are increased. Their experience points move upwards, and according to the Players’ Handbook – they have moved up to level-three Druid or fifth-level Bard. Now they are ready to take on new modules and adventures with their newfound knowledge.

::head-desk::  ::repeat::

Yes, you have spent money on getting the materials. Regardless of the total cost, part of that is to cover the production and shipping of what you have in your hands or on your headphones, as the case may be. Reading it is a good first step. Or listening to it, if you will. But that is not the total end of it. There is still a lot of work to be done. The lessons have exercises to try. Not just a single time, but many times over. Repetition is a key part of what you now have. Repetition brings things to rote memory, particularly where ritual patterns and concepts are concerned.

Yes, Virginia, there are patterns and a conceptual perception that is a part of learning rituals. Yes, you are reading that correctly for someone that leans HEAVILY on an extemporaneous ritual format in his own daily practice. But that is one’s daily practice. When working with others, formalized ritual practice is necessary so that everyone is on the same page, so to speak. When you are working through the exercises presented to you, it is important to follow the basic outline, learn it, and live it BEFORE you change it. Much like eating sushi, you will never know if you like it or not until you have tried it. More than once.

Besides, is that not why you sent away for these lessons in the first place?  To learn what is being offered? Or is it just to sit on your shelf, becoming a set of “impressive” titles that you can have gazing down on the visitors to your office? Sort of like getting a diploma with an impressive array of collegiate initials, so as to impress people?  And for the record, I do have an MBA (Masters of Business Administration), but it is just a set of initials I can place behind my name on a professional signature block. It doesn’t make me any smarter than anyone else.

But is Victor doing bad by purchasing his lessons from a location? Maybe. I think it would all depend on where he is running off to spend his money. There are tons of Get-Witch-Quick places out there. There are a lot of long-distance education and correspondence learning formats that are so much more than that. How do you pick? Well, that’s really up to you. I chose OBOD’s system after a lot of personal research. It works for what I need it to be (and far better than I had originally realized). But I certainly wouldn’t pick based on whether someone I knew looked down their nose at it or not.

For me, the framework that OBOD has allowed me to hang my own personal aspect of Polytheism wherever I needed it to be – as close to the center of my personal practice or as far away from it as I needed it to be. I also realize that this same framework does not necessarily work for anyone else. But just because I purchase my lessons from somewhere in the United Kingdom and do not have someone immediately available for face-to-face conversation ascribes no demeaning value to it. Nor does the reception of each package in my mailbox mean that I just set the CDs and Lesson booklets on top of my head while I sleep – letting the knowledge seep in. Each lesson holds exercises for me to accomplish. And each lesson takes me a step further along a Path I have chosen to walk. Many others have walked this same Path, and their own individual experiences have provided to them lessons and experience that is unique to them.

Nor does the reception of each package in my mailbox mean that I just set the CDs and Lesson booklets on top of my head while I sleep – letting the knowledge seep in. Each lesson holds exercises for me to accomplish. And each lesson takes me a step further along a Path I have chosen to walk. Many others have walked this same Path, and their own individual experiences have provided to them lessons and experience that is unique to them. For, in the end, we can walk the same deer trod through the forest, but what we encounter is unique to our own steps on our own journey.

Sure, Victor can believe that he has purchased his own tradition in a box. But its really meaningless until he starts to do the work, walk the steps, learn the lessons, and bring all of that into his everyday life. Yes, adding all of this into your everyday life is important, at least in my own opinion. I tried to compartmentalize my mundane life from my own Spiritual practice. And failed miserably at both. I only had the footing for a single step. After that, I found myself scrambling to achieve a balance rather than living the life that I wanted to have. I do not proclaim myself to be a Pagan openly by wearing an “I am a Pagan” button everywhere that I go. I really do not need to. I am who I am. And when I started taking the lessons to heart, applying each one to my daily life – I had no need to struggle for a balance. I achieve it every morning that I step outside to greet the sun.

Victor will have that balance as well, even with his $44.95 Tradition-in-a-Box – provided he is willing to put in the hard work to learn the lessons and apply them to his life. The same goes for you; whoever might be reading this. Whether your lessons come via the post or done in a face-to-face learning situation – its the work that you, as an individual, put into learning, doing, and living your magickal life that matters most. And there is absolutely no substitute for that.

Before You Try to Change It, You Have to Live It

IMG_0243“If you want to be something, you have to really want it. You have to be immersed in it every single day. You have to do the hard, sometimes boring, work. You have to do the research, the reading, writing things down, the rituals, the magick workings. You have to understand the theories behind the concepts, try your best to put theory into practice, manage the framework until you know it backwards and forwards. Once you have the basics down, you can work in the world of improvising. But before you try to change, you have to try to live it.”

I am extremely embarrassed to admit that it took me a very, very long time before I realized how important that statement really is. No matter what you are trying to do in your life. I wrote that statement three years ago. That’s right, I was forty-eight years old when I wrote that. I have been on a Pagan Path for close to twenty-seven years at that time. At that time, I had always thought I was living a “deep and fulfilling” life within Paganism. A few smacks to the back of my head later, along with some humiliating moments where I was shown just how shallow my understanding of Pagan practice really was – and Coyote had set me firmly onto looking for a deeper understanding of what I was really trying to do.

Once again, I tried the easy route. I figured that I only needed to dive deeper into the study of what I was working with. At this point, I was looking for ways to incorporate parts of First Nations’ Shamanism into my daily life. Once again, I felt the paw to the back of my head, and the feathery embrace of another Trickster – Crow. Before I started down a path of trying to improvise to my belief structure, I needed to create a framework from which to build on it. And here, I was lost. What could I use as a basis for who I am, that would be a pliable enough framework to build from?

Turns out, I had already started down this road a few years earlier. The work of the Bardic Grade within the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids was what I needed. While the ritual aspect was not quite what I wanted to work with, I found that these could be replaced with my own improvised works. Success! I found something that I could utilize to build my own Spiritual understanding upon! Except that I was wrong again. On the right track, just not looking at things the way that I needed to.

See, instead of interchanging things as I learned, I needed to learn the entire framework first. I needed to live my lessons. To be able to utilize the framework and build from it, I needed to learn the framework first. In the same way that musicians learn and live their scales and basic structures first, I needed to do the same thing within my work with the Bardic Grade. This was why I kept starting, stopping and going backwards in the lessons. I wasn’t grasping the lessons, because I was trying to improvise from something where I didn’t even know the basics. I needed to stop once more. And start AGAIN, but this time I needed to immerse myself in what I was learning. I needed to live the lessons I was learning, I needed to dive deeply into what I was learning. Skimming the top wasn’t going to work. So, I did just that seven months ago and I am happy to note that I have spent a lot of time in the lessons re-learning things. But I am also seeing changes in how I approach my own beliefs.

I pull data from databases for a living. I learn SQL code every single day. Every database system has a different language structure. Its similar to other databases, but some of the coding structure is different. That requires me to learn new concepts, and it requires me to use that new coding style every single day. I have to immerse myself in this new language, so that I become proficient. That makes me capable of completing the jobs I need to in order to finish my work.

Spiritual work is no different. I am unlearning aspects of Roman Catholicism every single day – even though I haven’t seen a Catholic mass since I was seventeen (1983 for those needing a year). Prior to all of that, I will have to admit – I was much closer to being an Instant-Pudding Pagan than anything else.

What is an Instant-Pudding Pagan? Well, think about how instant pudding gets made. You open a package of pudding mix, and dump that into a bowl. Then you pour some cold milk into the bowl, pull out the whisk, and mix it together. Once you’re done, you place the bowl and contents into the fridge to let everything set. An Instant-Pudding Pagan takes a little bit o stuff from here and there, places all of that into a container (their brain or whatever), gets out the magickal whisk/wand, stirs it all together, and then lets it set for a period of time. Once it sets, the result is pronounced to be a full-fledged Pudding, and is smacked on the head with the whisk/wand to announce this to the world at hand.

I did a lot of that during my earlier years as a Pagan. I spent a lot of time sampling from place to place – tradition to tradition – looking for something that would work. A spiritual system that I could work and grow within comfortably. As I went from place to place, I gathered ingredients here and there, and started to create my own spiritual beliefs. But I had no base to work from, and that didn’t help me at all. I had nothing in which to cultivate some of these ideas and concepts I had skimmed off from other systems. So, my spirituality didn’t grow well for me. Like I said, it only dawned on me three years ago that I needed to do things differently.

Now, those of you gathering clubs and torches to destroy me over describing your method of Spiritual Belief as “Instant-Pudding” – let’s set all that on the ground and remember something. If that method works for you, and you have grown something in that manner which works for you – I could not be more thrilled for you. In fact, you have no idea how wide my smile is, because I am proud of people who find things that work for them – no matter where or how they find those methods. I use the “Instant Pudding” term as a descriptive that allows a more visual interpretation by some. Its not meant to be demeaning, just a descriptive methodology. So, please don’t freak out over the descriptive. Demeaning someone is not the purpose of this.

I keep hearing the line from the old Rocky Horror Picture Show in my head when I write about this. “Don’t dream it, be it.” For me, I have found most things require hard work. There are things that need to be done and understood before making changes to get things to suit me. And if I am trying to learn it, living it is one of the best learning techniques for me. It might not be the best technique for someone else, but it certainly seems to be providing the results that I had been hoping for – and providing me with a perspective I would never have comprehended before.