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 /|\

Looking Back Down the Path: Thoughts on the Turn of the Wheel

…and so we have made it to another turn in the Wheel of the Year. Though, I would argue that each day represents another full rotation of the Wheel in comparison to the year before. Samhain, though, is a bit different. For many Pagans, this is the equivalent of the New Year. So, let’s take some of the stuff we ascribe to the New Year celebrations the general world populace ascribes to December 31st, and place those here. In other words, I’m about to take a look at the past year from my own eyes. I realize that I have already taken a look backwards but this is in conjunction with that post. In this one, I am examining things from a slightly different angle.

Travel

One thematic that has been extra prevalent over the part year for me has been travel. The end of December held a trip to Scotland, England, and France for a whirlwind eleven days. The result was a fantastic trip that has me completely in love with Edinburgh (including fantasies of spending my latter years in life there), and a wonderful trip to Treadwell’s Books in London. If we only had book shoppes with this much flair, charisma, and loveliness. I will be back!  And this time I will bring an empty suitcase for all the books I want to adopt. 😉 The early part of this calendar year found me on a plane bound for San Jose, California where I attended my first Pantheacon. A few weeks later, I was in San Antonio, Texas for a work-related conference. Shortly after that, I made a trip to Louisiana for the OBOD Gulf Coast Gathering, and a few weeks after that came another work conference in Round Rock, Texas. Another short trip to Abilene was at the start of the Summer. And the end of the Summer saw a trip to Yellowstone National Park come about.

14224720_10205751176018782_59571031270202389_nThe coming year looks to add more travel, as I have already set aside plans for trips to Pantheacon, Many Gods West, ADF Imbolc, OBOD Gulf Coast Gathering, a potential trip to OBOD East Coast Gathering, another potential trip to CalderaFest, a work conference in Houston, and a shorter single-day conference in Round Rock (its a yearly thing). Plus, there’s always the chance for multiple side trips now that I am pulling a camper behind my truck. In other words, the chances for me to de-stress in the woods, mountains, and prairies has an even greater chance of happening now.

The Storm

Since Samhain Eve last year, my dreams are filled with images of storms, and tumultuous events. It took a short while to figure out what all of that truly meant, including many a night out by the backyard stone circle. The world is on the edge of changes. Some of these are for the better, some may not be. But change is certainly coming on the wings of the storm. I am still not completely sure what those changes may look like, or how those changes may be felt throughout the wider Pagan community, but when I continually hear statements in my dreams about how – my staff is for more than supporting me while I walk” – I know that there’s more to it than just a thought about getting into better physical shape. Up here near the Texas/Oklahoma border, I am essentially a Pagan on my own. However, were I to find Pagans from south of me on my doorstep looking for a place to hide, I would certainly be prepared to offer them shelter within my home. I would also certainly find myself out in my front yard – staff in hand – offering defense of my house guests from all comers. There is no grey line in all of this, there certainly is a storm coming – and for all intents and purposes, this Presidential election cycle may certainly be its harbinger.

The Four Year Cycle

And certainly, here in the United States, there is no mistaking what the election cycle has done. I cannot count the number of political posts that I have hidden on Facebook. Nor can I count the number of times I have embroiled myself into some nuanced aspect of politics there as well. And there has been more than one time where a friend has taken offense at something I have posted concerning their candidate. In this Presidential election cycle there has been very little grey area. Most people made up their minds over a week ago as to who they were voting for President. Many of those people have already cast their votes. This election cycle, I have abstained from the President/Vice President voting. Instead, I focused on state, county and local elections. There is nothing in the election laws that says that you have to vote for all the races on your ballot. There is also nothing in the election laws that says that you have to explain your reasoning for how you voted, or to detail if you had voted at all. However, one thing is very clear: as a society, we Americans have decided to utilize this election as a litmus test to determine the character of our neighbors. If you have a Trump sign in your yard, you are provided the worst qualities of your candidate. If you have a “I’m With Her” sticker on your car, you are ascribed the descriptives of being an empowered elitist. From my perspective, its sad to see so many people hang the worst qualities of a candidate around the necks of those who vote for them (the candidates). I’d rather look at the citizenry of this country as a group of people, all with a different perspective on why or why not a particular candidate would be a good choice.

Moving Forward

About mid-way through the year, I changed my focus, rededicated myself to my Path, and started working through my Gwers again. I am not sure where I got the idea from, but I realized if I was wanting to make progress, I had to spend the time to get things done. In other words, I needed to really want to get through the lessons, I had to really want to be down this Path, I had to want to be a Druid. I spent four days thinking that over. I turned over the positives in my mind, then the negatives, and then weighed them against one another. Once I made up my mind to want to be on this Path, I set forward a plan of how to tackle things – particularly my lessons. I drew up a loose plan of how to deal with the lessons, set aside a time frame for each day, and then started following that plan. Like I said, its a loose plan. That way when life intervenes, there’s places where lessons can be pushed back so I can deal with those issues – without completely destroying the schedule. Plus, I decided earlier on that the schedule should not encompass ALL of the lessons. It handles a schedule of ten at a time. Once I complete those ten lessons, a new schedule of lessons gets created, and I move forward. Some ten lesson packs have taken significantly longer than others – simply because life did intervene. And getting into these lessons with more depth and time has changed me. I am learning patience. I am learning how to handle knowledge. I am learning more about myself. I am growing. And that’s really the key to it all. Just being who I am, and finding ways to incorporate what I learn to who I am, and my daily life.

Looking back at the past year, I see where things went wildly successful. I also see where things went absolutely bonkers too. And I can see where I struggled with keeping things on the rails between those two points. But there’s one constant between them all: I continue to learn. And in that learning, I continue to to grow. I’m not going to be a Druid overnight. It just doesn’t work that way. Plus, I’m not really an Instant-Pudding Pagan. I see many different trails to potentially wander off onto. But I am staying the Path. I am continuing to move forward. I make notes where these switchback trails are located, so I can explore them at another time. In the meantime, its time to move forward. Towards the goal. Towards where I should be. Fun trails are for another time.