Pagan Conferences, Gatherings and My Face on a Milk Carton

I get all kinds of question from people wanting to know more about me or looking for my opinion on things. Most of this tends to be on political topics or controversial things – sort of like looking for that “gotcha” moment, except that I have no problems with my opinions on things – even when I’m in the hardcore minority. My perspective is my own, and I don’t shy away from it. This morning, I was asked if I was going to return to Pagan-oriented conventions. Its an interesting question, considering the timing. We’re just starting to come out of COVID-19 hiding, so there’s a lot of cautious nature involved. As an individual with pre-existing conditions (I’m a Type-II diabetic, I have high blood pressure issues, I continually fight issues of chronic edema associated with my bout with pneumonia a few years back), I’m probably more cautious than most when dealing with the public sector. I still carry a face mask in my pocket wherever I go. I have two face masks hanging from my gear shift in the truck. I have two bottles of hardcore hand sanitizer in the truck (and constantly use them). Sure, call me paranoid if you like, but I do prefer the idea of being alive…so I take the best precautions that I can. So, this is the background I work from when people ask about conventions and gatherings.

I enjoy conventions and gatherings, but I enjoy each for very different reasons. For me, these are two very different types of environments, thus I tend to treat each differently.


Probably the easiest of the two to describe and deal with, gatherings come in many different sizes and guises. I’ve been to quite a few over the years. My favorite amongst all of these is the OBOD Gulf Coast Gathering. I’ve been to every single one of these, and the people that run this gathering are nothing less than family to me. Seeing them every year was immensely gratifying and refreshing. The two years that were cancelled because of COVID were some of the most difficult times I’ve dealt with. Earlier this year, the gathering was held again, and it was such a relief to see my family again – as well as new people that were there for the first time. I’ve been to others over the years as well.

OBOD East Coast Gathering, which had a large cross-over with the Gulf Coast Gathering, was quite an interesting time in the woods of Pennsylvania.

Pagan Pride Days in Dallas/Fort Worth and Austin have been interesting gatherings to attend, as well as work. I think I enjoyed working in my first Pagan Pride Day more than just attending the latter ones.

Ár nDraíocht Féin’s Imbolc Retreat is another of my favorite gatherings. While I am not an ADF Druid, I was not only made welcome, but treated as family. Moving to Arkansas will make attending future events a little rough, but I can always try to find some manner to get there. I do love waking up to the remnants of the previous night’s fire, the quiet of camp, and the clear blue-sky mornings when I was there.

Austin Witchfest was an interesting gathering, the year that I attended. COVID was just getting started, but there was still quite a good gathering there. There was a touch of disappointment, as it seemed to be more of a seller’s market than anything else, but it was nice to catch up with a few people that I know when I was there.

Each of the gatherings I’ve described here had their own flavor about them. Merchandising, rituals, workshops, getting together with family, meeting new people – these gatherings were smaller in size than the two conferences I’ve attended. And that smaller size, to be honest, is a compelling reason why I am looking forward to getting back into this environment in the future.


I must admit, my experiences in this environment are limited to two such instances: Pantheacon and Many Gods West. Sadly, neither of these conferences seem to be in existence any longer. Both; however, were wonderful experiences that allowed me the opportunity to experience things from a different perspective than the gatherings. Far larger, far greater in diverse topics, these conferences provided opportunities I probably would never have gotten at gatherings. Well, for the most part. ::grin:: I’ll explain in a minute.

While Pantheacon was the first conference that I attended, Many Gods West was a different environment altogether. Held at a much smaller hotel than Pantheacon, there were far fewer panels than Pantheacon. There was some distinct emphasis on the merchandising room, and if there were rituals held, I wasn’t aware of them. The feeling was rather low-key, food was much further away, but there was ample opportunities for conversation in the event rooms and in the hallways. With a smaller level of patronage, there was less noise to shout over, which made hallway conversations into intimate and interesting times. There was a lot of exchange in thoughts, ideas, theories, and perspectives… Sadly, shortly after this particular year’s event was finished, the organizers closed the doors on their conference.

Pantheacon….was a monster event. The hotel was extremely busy during the entire three-day event. There were Pagans of all-types there. Hallway conversations were a bit more difficult to have, as the traffic throughout was thick, heavy, and always loud. Most people were trying to traverse the hallways through the hotel to get from one panel presentation to another. The timing between panels was usually around fifteen minutes, which made some of those moves to get from panel to panel into mad dashes if the two panels were on opposite ends of the hotel. A series of second-floor rooms were set aside as comfort suites utilized by various groups, where one could find snacks and drinks, as well as “off-the-track” presentations, some of which didn’t make the Pantheacon panel tracks. With the ADF and OBOD suites side-by-side, it was easy to find people I already knew that I could sit and talk with. Plus the noise factor here was much quieter.

I learned a lot from the panels that I attended. But once, I got a presentation twice. Kristoffer Hughes did a presentation that I attended at Pantheacon. Two weeks later, he provided the same presentation at OBOD Gulf Coast gathering, where he was the headline guest. He even made the comment that ‘Tommy’s going to be bored. He’s already heard this.” 😊 The reality was that I wasn’t bored, as Kristoffer altered the presentation with material I had not heard at Pantheacon. 😉

Much like Many Gods West, Pantheacon succumbed shortly after the three straight years I attended. It was a marvelous experience; one I am glad that I took the chance to partake in. I’d almost classify it as a Pagan carnival if they had offered free rides. However, the Krampus Walk almost made up for that. 😊


A few people have expressed the idea that I would be good at presenting a panel at one of the few remaining Pagan conferences. I have presented at professional conferences when I was working with the college here in Texas. In fact, I left my last ADF Imbolc Retreat in the early morning hours of Sunday (think about 4am) to drive south to Galveston to attend a professional conference from Monday to Wednesday, which included me presenting as part of a multi-college team presentation. I’ve provided presentations on SQL query writing at conferences in Tulsa and San Diego, as well. Add to that, the three years that I taught in a collegiate classroom, one would think that I am a natural at stuff like that. Not really. I get super nervous. I can be a rambling mess. And I suck at keeping time. But the real reason that I’ve never presented at a Pagan Conference or gathering comes down to one thing: I’ve never submitted anything to present. Maybe in the future…if someone talks me into it and plies me with enough whiskey… In the meantime, my best presentations tend to happen around a campfire…in the middle of the night…just talking.

The End

This is usually where I put my final slide, which provides my sources, along with the books and websites that I recommend for further reading on the subject. In my presentations, this is the slide where everyone gets up and takes a picture of what it presents. I guess it’s a famous slide or something. Maybe its showing too much skin or something. But it always tends to be the most popular slide. I’ve always wondered if that says something about my presentation style. 😉

Regardless, I’ll be trying to find new Pagan-oriented conferences and gatherings to attend. Rest assured, I’ll be at Gulf Coast Gatherings. That gathering and those people are family…plus, its where I hope to do my Druid Grade initiation, if I ever get there. 😊Who knows, maybe I’ll see one of you at one of these gatherings or conferences. I’ll add a picture here…so you can recognize me. Or if I go missing, you can paste it on a milk carton. 😊Providing that someone would want to find me.

–T /|\

Feeling Disconnected at Winter Solstice

As I am writing this, I am watching and listening to the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids (OBOD) “Online Winter Solstice, Alban Arthan Ceremony“. As Eimear Burke, the Order’s Chosen Chief, noted – an online ceremony is not what anyone would have envisioned for this time of year. Certainly, an online ceremony is not exactly the type of connection that I felt I may be having with the other members of my Order. The feeling I have in all of this is that of being a touch disconnected. A feeling of everything not being what I have had previously, during the celebrations I have attended in the past.

Many people would assume that this has a lot to do with my current state of depression and dropping mental health. Certainly some of that has played a part in my feelings of being disconnected. But only a small part. Whether I want to truly admit it or not, I’m a social creature. I need face-to-face connection to feel that deeper connectivity. The last time I saw any members of my Order was in March of this year, at Austin WitchFest, when I happened to cross paths with John Beckett. The last event of the Order that I attended was back in March of the previous year, as this year’s Gulf Coast Gathering was cancelled due to concerns over COVID. Prior to the cancellation, I had debated whether I would attend, knowing the dangerous aspects of contracting the virus, given my health conditions.

The lack of connection with the members of my Order has taken its toll on me. Not so much as a Druid though. Other factors in my life have done that for me. However, I’m in no danger of leaving Druidry behind. Rather, I am in the process of redefining its purpose within my daily life. A process that will take a good bit of time. What I miss the most is the interaction with the members of my Order. This is what 2020 and Covid have essentially robbed me of. However, kicking my feet and wailing to the wind won’t make things different. Certainly, I might feel good after doing such things but none of that solves a single thing.

The Order’s Winter Solstice celebration is a nice moment for me to take in. However, it is a difficult reminder of what I do not have within my Spirituality at this moment. It is also a reminder of how many people are always there by my side. In the upper right corner of the screen in the OBOD video, is Kristoffer Hughes, someone who has always known how to bring a smile to my face one minute, and a shocked look to my face the next minute as he picks me up and squeezes the air out of me with his big bear hugs. And there are so many others that my mind brings forth. Papa Bear, Kathleen, Gabby, Wanda, Frank, the two Jacobs, Wendy, and everyone else that have made the Gulf Coast Gatherings into an expression of family. As well as putting up with my ridiculous shenanigans during camp. These online celebrations are always moments that remind me of what is missing within my own Spiritual life.

I am also reminded that life changes every single day. That what has happened yesterday is not likely to happen in the exact same way today or even tomorrow. That what happened an hour ago can be diametrically different than what happens right now. That what is happening now in this time of darkness, both COVID and my own depression, is not likely to continue. Each step we take is different than the footfall we just left behind. Somehow, some way, it is a matter of groping in the dark until we can find something to hold on to, something to gain strength and balance from.

We have reached another Winter Solstice in our lives. This one looks and feels different from any of the ones we have known, though it really is not. Our disconnected lives here in 2020 only provide an unfamiliar backdrop.

The central and essential thought of Alban Arthan is renewal. We let the past behind us and greet the new. The world is undergoing constant change and we must change and adjust, too, in order to be able to survive. Change is inevitable. The German poet Heinrich Heine said: “Nothing is so permanent as change”. In this knowledge, humankind celebrates festivals since times unknown, giving people the opportunity to let go of the old and to embrace the new things which life would certainly hold in store.

Things may feel different. The times may make us feel disconnected or out of sorts. But even in an online ritual, we can find even small bits of comfort and serenity. If your Druidry is like mine, rooted more in the people you are with than in the period of the Wheel of the Year that you are in – you have likely felt much of the same disconnected nature that I have. Try to remember, and this goes for myself as well, that all of this is only for the moment. It is the here and the now. Not the future. It may take time, but we will eventually get back to a time where we can gather together without the fear of inadvertently infecting those we love and cherish with a virus with such deadly consequences. We just have to be a little more patient than we anticipated. We have to remain safe, protecting ourselves, and in so doing – protecting others as well.

This is the time of the year to let go of things in our past. This is a time when the days are short, and the dark of the night is a little longer – until the Solstice. Then the reverse holds true. In a manner of speaking, I am starting to see where my current bout of depression is a time frame leading to a Winter Solstice in my own life. Where darkness will have a shorter reign. Where light, and hope can be seen on the distant horizon. All I need to do is what our ancestors did during this time of the physical year – endure. For me, its difficult because I have no hand to hold. I endure the darkness on my own. But we can envision holding one another’s hands…being the unseen support for one another. Because together, we not only endure, but we will flourish. All we need is patience, and our own self-understanding.

A long while back, I used to hold a morning and evening vigil for the Sun. I would get up before the sunrise, and greet its sudden arrival over the horizon with a cup of coffee in my hand, and wonder in my eyes. In the evenings, I would say my good night, as it slipped over the horizon, allowing the Darkness to have its turn in my world. But I always asked the Sun as it set for a promise that it would rise again in the East. The Sun has never failed in keeping that promise. Perhaps, I need to take the time to re-establish this little vigil. The same promise from the Sun holds true at the time of Winter Solstice. The Sun has promised to make the days longer from this point on. Every year, that promise has been kept. I see nothing to suggest that it will be different going into 2021, or even in my own life. It takes patience, time, and faith. I do my best with the first one. I have no control over the second one. The third one is completely up to me.

–T /|\

When Nothing Goes As Planned

Well, its late on a Thursday night…and I am still not sure what to write about. So let’s throw on some music…which Pixel has decided will be R. Carlos Nakai. Usually, I prefer to have this type of music on for meditative states, but let’s give it a whirl with writing, shall we?

This evening brought the news of the cancellation of this year’s OBOD Gulf Coast Gathering. This event is a yearly pilgrimage (of sorts) for me. The folks that host this multi-day event are family to me. Family that I do not normally see except online. Many of the attendees, I have come to call Brother and Sister, so you can really understand how special this is to me. And just how much it saddens me that this event is not going to take place. The reasoning is quite sound – many of the attendees fall into the groupings that are most affected by the Corona virus. I’m one of those attendees. So I completely grok the perspective about safety being a primary concern.

So, things have not gone as planned. Over the last seven months, a lot of what I had planned has not gone the way that I had wanted or hoped for. Much of life has felt like it was out of control, spinning in directions I could neither manage or counter. So, what can you do when nothing goes as planned?

Back when I was in the Air Force, stationed at Carswell Air Force Base over in Fort Worth, I worked in the Data Processing Center. My job was to enter the JCL (Job Control Language — the language that the UniSys mainframe understood) statements into the console, and allow the batch jobs it started to run. I was to retrieve and mount the magnetic tape reels when the batch jobs called for these, and to print out the results on the required medium for retrieval by whatever department on base had submitted the jobs. For the most part, everything went exactly as expected. Occasionally, someone would setup a batch job incorrectly, and an error would occur – usually sometime between 10pm and 4am – when the programmers were asleep.

Usually, I would call them and read off the errors to them. A few of them actually trusted me enough to login under their accounts, and makes the changes that they wanted while I was on the phone with them. They would talk me through a few changes, I would make the edits, save the JCL batch job, and then restart the job on the console. This usually saved them from having to drive back into the base, and doing the process themselves.

Was it correct protocol? No, not really. I was being provided their userid and password to do their job. But it kept things running, and got the jobs back in running order in less than a sixth of the time it would have taken in another manner. When things did not go as planned, we improvised what we needed to do to get the job done. This is one thing that you might be able to consider. Improvise and continue to get things finished.

Of course, there are times when improvisation just is not going to work. Take the OBOD Gulf Coast Gathering cancellation, for example. There is nothing I can improvise that will make the situation work. The event is cancelled. I need to accept that fact (though I don’t really want to), and move forward. Until next year’s event, I can continue to work on finishing my Ovate Gwers work, and potentially have an initation into the Druid grade. In fact, this is a fairly good plan to have. In moving on, I set a new goal for myself, and strive forward towards what I need to do.

Now, with that out of the way, I need to do one other thing – at least for myself. Process what has happened and realize that while it sucks, its better that the cancellation happened. In this manner, individuals that might be adversely affected by the Corona virus will be far safer than trying to travel to and from the event. Not to mention keeping the spread of things just a touch more under control – even if it is within a smaller group of folks. Yes, be sad about it. That’s only natural, and we should never try to suppress the feelings that we have that are natural. At least in my opinion….

Personally, I believe that there is a lot more #CoronaPanic going on than there should be. But I have no scientific fact to back that up (nor do I care to argue the pros and cons of what I said – its just my opinion folks). I just feel that some rational thought is always the best place to start from. Again, just an opinion.

Remember…when everything goes awry, you can improvise (where possible) or accept conditions and move onwards. Yeah, the sign did say that this was the Rest Area that was coming in five miles. But there was nothing about the building being locked. You can either hold it until the next public restroom comes along….or take a quick dive behind the bush and pee. Trust me, the bush will appreciate it – if you are not too shy to do so. Improvise or accept…the choice is yours. But…we’re all out of tiolet paper…thanks to the #CoronaPanic.

–T /|\

The OBOD Camp Experience – Gulf Coast 2018 Version – There…and Back Again

So, yesterday was the long journey home. Sleeping in a little late wound up getting the trip home started around 10am. Prior to leaving, a quick side trip was mounted to a nearby “Donut King” which has the most amazing donuts. However, the sign stated “no Credit Cards accepted. Cash and Checks only” which squashed that attempt, and found the truck back on the interstate and headed west.

There certainly has been a lot to think about, and a lot to process in my mind. The aftermath of every camp always alters some of the short/long-range plans with other ideas and slight alterations. This year’s camp was no different. I have a renewed energy to tackle my Ovate lessons and continue making progress. There is a distinct possibility that I may not be finished at the desired point of prior to next year, but if I fall short – so long as I make distinct progress, I’ll not be beating myself up.

img_9678The other alteration to short/long-range plans occurs with the podcast. I have a new episode that should (crossing fingers) be finished by this weekend. I have stated before that this will be the end of Upon a Pagan Path. Well, let me amend that statement slightly. This will be the end of regularly scheduled episodes for the podcast. I will continue bringing out episodes, just without a regular schedule. My work schedule is topsy-turvy, and there are other heavy issues in my life – so a regular schedule is not possible to maintain. I stated that “there are other podcasts that do what I do and do it better.” Its true, they do it better, but my focus is on the everyday individual on a Pagan Path – not the names that everyone else knows and hears on other podcasts. So, in that regard – not everyone else does what I do. They have similar formats. And that is where the “sameness” stops. But again, a regular schedule is just not going to be possible given everything else going on in life. I will aim at getting six to eight episodes out each calendar year. So the podcast will continue to have lie, sort of. For those of you that are happy about that…there was a certain discussion that took place behind a rented green cube at 11pm on Friday night that you can thank for that. All I will say is that you’re the tops, and what you stated made complete sense to me once I had nine hours of driving to mull over all of that.

Behind a hideous boxy vehicle of green
A lengthy conversation was whispered at, unseen
Shenanigators we have become
With bawdy tales yet to be sung
There is no denying that we make one “wicked” team

One thing is for certain, my hat is off to the folks of Highland Oak Nemeton who sponsor and organize this gathering every year. Each year, this whole gathering operates smoothly with very few noticeable glitches or issues. As each year comes around, I get very excited about seeing the folks that are a part of this group. They are wonderful individuals with wonderful families that I have had the privilege of getting to know. Honestly, I cannot think of them in any other way than family. They are all so welcoming, so helpful, and so loving to everyone who comes to this yearly gathering. They truly are the epitome of Druid hospitality.

I have mentioned it before – everyone’s experience of an OBOD camp is certain to be different. In my own experience, you get out of camp what you put into it. Again, if you are interested in the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids, please trot over to the website at and take a peek for yourself. I have found it to be a nearly perfect fit for who I am as a Pagan, and have benefitted greatly on a personal level from the Bardic and Ovate coursework.

Thanks for reading! I hope you have enjoyed this little series of posts.  –T /|\


The OBOD Camp Experience – Gulf Coast 2018 Version – Day Three

IMG_0243…and thus ends the third day in OBOD Camp for Gulf Coast Gathering. And this day was jam packed with things to do, and events – and contains the most bitter-sweet moment for me in camp:  goodbyes.

On this day of camp – grade breakouts start the flow of the process. In the grade breakouts, the members of each grade work together to provide a gift for the main ritual – in this case, Alban Eilir. And these gifts provide some of the best fun of camp, with lots of creative work put into the creation of these gifts. For the Ovates, one of the members brought an oil made from the resin of a tree from the University of Nebraska. This was made into a solution that was placed into four decorated bowls which were dolled up to look like nests. The Druids provided a gift of a gift (a re-gift if you will) of a dream-catcher that had been made by the Oklahoma group Circle of the Six-Fold Path and presented to him by two of their members who were in attendance. But the most entertaining gift came from the Bards, which was a story of Spring – narrated line by line from each Bard. At one point, they mentioned the saga of the Screen Door Boar which seems to now be on its way to being some type of legend in camp. It took a touch of restraint on my part not to laugh too loudly. But I heard a lot of comments after the ritual from others about how creative and fun the Bardic gift had been. It truly was.

Shortly after the ritual, several folks went on the nearby Nature Walk. I had less than four hours of sleep last night, and stayed back in camp, where plenty of conversations were to be had. Some deeply intellectual, some deeply personal, and some just downright silly. As I have noted on several occasions, conversations – for me – are some of the most amazing highlights of the entire Gulf Coast Gathering. Many of these are typically had in the down-time regions of the camp schedule.

Eventually, most of the camp feel into the rhythm of an Eisteddfod out by the fire, while a group of us prepared for the initiation of individuals into the Ovate grade. Again, I will not share details of any of the initiations that happen within camp. If you are interested in experiencing an initiation within OBOD, please come on in and join up. We don’t bite. Well, some of us won’t bite you…unless you ask.

After the Ovate grade initiations, everyone gathered up around the same Eisteddfod fire for a talk on divination with Philip Carr-Gomm. Philip is quite the personable individual, and a real joy to listen to when he is talking. Conversations with Philip are some really incredible moments as well. More than one person commented on how down-to-earth he is to talk with. I find Philip to be a true treasure for the Order. His style of communicating with people is so much like talking with your best friend. I know that I will treasure the time I have had in camp listening to him.

Shortly after Philip’s talk wound down, the time of saying goodbyes had arrived. I don’t normally stay the last day, which holds the closing ceremony. This year is no exception. With a nine-hour drive tomorrow, it was definitely time to head back to the hotel, write this blog, and go to bed. I walked around camp, hugging folks and saying my goodbyes. but these are not truly goodbyes – for we still have the internet to connect us together. And having made some new friends with new folks in camp – I look forward to “talking” with folks a bit more via this wonderful communications medium that we have.

Prior to getting out of camp, I managed to talk a bit with folks about Kristoffer Hughes’ concept of the Pagan Square Mile, as well as his point on the Druid Transmitted Infection (DTI) concerning the usage of our own personal Awen to inspire not only others, but ourselves. I will use bits and pieces of those conversations for a not-so-far in the future blog post because I believe its a topic worth revisiting, especially in the times we find ourselves in today.

I will be up and packing the truck shortly after this post is scheduled to be published. But for all of us in camp, I ask that the Gods and Goddesses look out for all of us on our travels back to our respective homes. And that the feeling of belonging, togetherness, family and friendship that we embraced within camp for these few precious days, follows us home as well. So that we can find our joy, and infect the rest of the world with our Awen – our own DTI. I am humbled to have spent time with each and every one of you, and while I may not have had the chance to speak with all of you during camp this year – I hope we find the time to do so at Gulf Coast Gathering 2019.

And one final thought – OBOD Camp as an experience is what you make of it. Everything I have posted thus far, has been about what I have experienced. So your mileage may vary, but you will never truly know what an experience OBOD camp really is unless you decide to come to one. Just sayin’….

–T /|\

The OBOD Camp Experience – Gulf Coast 2018 Version – Day Two

So ends another day at OBOD Gulf Coast Gathering camp. And it certainly was a lot of fun. Today was one of my favorite times in camp: Bardic initiations. Now, if you’re looking for a description of what takes place in a Bardic initiation, you won’t find it here. If you are wondering about the experience of a Bardic initiation, I would invite you to take some serious consideration to having one done at an OBOD camp – if you are inclined to start down a path with OBOD.

The reason I love Bardic initiations is because I get to see the wide-eyed experience that I had play out on the face of an individual taking their first steps into a wider world. It is an experience I will cherish and treasure for the rest of my life, as I am sure all the other new initiates will as well. Plus, new members on the Bardic path means new members in OBOD which means growth – as I said in yesterday’s post. Plus it reminds me of where I have come from to be where I am now on my Ovate grade path. Yeah, I get all warm and fuzzy when I think about stuff like that. 🙂

But that was only part of the camp experience. The day started off with a session on bio-regional animism, which led to some wonderful discussion concerning the living aspect of all things around us. Plants, animals, rocks, and all manner of existence was discussed in terms of living relationships and towards the end, we crafted a ritual using an OBOD framework that utilized local animals and plants for the elemental aspects of the directions. I was in the group to the west, and we eventually picked the wild boar – and no, I didn’t twist anyone’s arms into choosing this because of the Screen Door Boar saga.

Once we had finished that, it was time for lunch, followed by a discussion led by Philip Carr-Gomm. Originally, the segment was to be the future of Druidry, but Philip had talked about that around the fire the previous night – so he discussed how to work with visualization in your meditative work. He had us working on our own flying carpets in our minds, and considering where the energy that moved the carpet was located (hint – it was three inches underneath the carpet). This was quite an interesting concept to consider, and he even touched on how to be in your Inner Grove, and within the Physical realm at the same time – and the sensation associated with this. He even worked with all of us as a group to give this a try…and to be honest its not as difficult as you might think. And it is quite the sensation to experience.

Seven Sisters Oak

A second trip to the Seven Sisters Oak had been planned, and I decided to go along. I had seen the Seven Sisters Oak during my first year, and didn’t go on the field trips in the second and third years. However, having not seen it in a while, I wanted to refresh my memories of the location. Arriving at the private home where the Oak resides, I remembered a tree in a further corner of the property that had drawn me to it on my first visit. Sure enough it was still there, and still as magnificent as I remembered it being. Seven Sisters Oak is estimated to be 1700 years old and has a spread base of around 139 feet according to its Wikipedia page. To say it is an astounding sigh to behold is an understatement.

Upon our return to camp, we had dinner, and the initial setup of folks for Bardic grade initiations were eventually underway. and as I noted the ceremony was beautiful and moving (for me) as it always is. After the initiations were complete, many of us gathered around the camp fire for some story-telling, jokes, limericks (which eventually reached the dirty level after the youngsters were off to bed), and music from Bran, which is always a magickal treat. Soon though, folks began to reach their limit and the camp started to reach the end of the evening, and I eventually made my way back to the hotel, where I am typing this to you.

As I mentioned before, lots of conversations happen. Today was no exception to that rule. Camp is always a special time where old friends connect, and new friends get welcomed into the fold. And for me, these conversations are always the special treasures of being here. No one has asked for a long walk to talk (yet), but the weather is a touch warm – so I am not sure folks want to take the charge to go get too sweaty. And the special topping to all of that? The massive, loving hugs you get – even from new folks – as we all continue to bond anew every year. I have said it before – these folks are my family, and this yearly gathering is my home. And not because of the location – its the people that make it a home to me. I cannot thank the Gods and Goddesses enough for bringing me into the orbit of these people. My life is continually enriched by all of them.

–T /|\

The OBOD Camp Experience – Gulf Coast Gathering 2018 Version – Day One

I am now back at the hotel after the start of this year’s OBOD Gulf Coast Gathering. As I munch on some yellow Peeps bunnies and slam back a Dr. Pepper, I am thinking of what has taken place over the course of the day. Check-in at camp was at 1 pm, so breakfast was at the hotel, and lunch was at Don’s Seafood. That is a ritual of its own. At the first Gulf Coast Gathering four years ago, this was where lunch was had prior to check-in. And it has been the same for each of the four years. Plus the meal does not change either – consisting of the seafood gumbo…though this year I opted for the small bowl, which is a large bowl in my mind. The service is always good, and the location is always clean – so these folks continue to get my business each year.

Camp arrival sparked many hugs and reunions with family that I only see once a year at this event. It is always a joy to see these folks, and physically reconnect with them. As I have said – these folks are family. One of the Bardic initiates from the “Screen Door Boar” incident initiated into Ovate at the East Coast Gathering last year, so it was nice to catch up with him. However, one of the Bardic initiates from when I initiated into the Bardic grade at the first GCG surprised me with the news that he had finished his Bardic grade and was to be initiated into the Ovate grade at this year’s GCG. To say I am thrilled beyond description is an understatement. We shared huge hugs over the news, and I look forward to being a part of his initiation later in camp. This was an immeasurable surprise to me, and I am full of excitement.

img_1835Opening ritual was fun. We had a wonderful ceremony. I took on the role of North, and got to watch other folks step up into other roles of the directions that were all new faces in this participatory function. New folks means growth, in my opinion. And I could not help beaming from ear to ear at my fellow cardinal directions. A Gulf Coast Gathering 2018 medallion was presented to Philip Carr-Gomm in the opening ritual, and then the cardinal directions were asked to pass out the medallions that had been provided in four paper sacks to the other participants in the ritual. Quite an unexpected moment, but definitely a treat to be sure.

img_1836Once the opening ritual was finished, it was time to gather folks together for the evening meal, which is always a masterful thing in camp. The food that gets provided here at Gulf Coast Gathering is Cajun spicy, and super excellent food. Though, one individual and myself who were talking about old computer technology got chided for being too chatty and slow in line. It happens. 🙂

After the meal was finished, another new moment for GCG Camp happened, as we played “Druid Bingo” – a game where a list of information items are on a card, and you had to find folks that could answer one of the questions from the folks in camp. The design was to get folks to talk with one another and thus get to know each other a bit more. The entire exercise was a massive amount of fun, and was enjoyed thoroughly by all.

Most folks retreated outdoors to the campfire, where I understood that Philip gave an impromptu talk until jet lag started to take hold. I stayed indoors and caught up with a few folks on a wide variety of topics, including a round of networking to help them get a little more connected with other Pagans around the world and outside of our local area (they are also from my area). There was also a long-ranging discussion on beliefs, perspectives, points of view, and some work-related talk (ok, whining and complaining on my end) until the evening started to wear down on everyone, and we all started to head to our respective locations for some needed sleep.

This is one of the great things about camp – the conversations with other people. You get to learn their perspectives on a wider range of topics. And this can lead to opening your mind to a new way of seeing the world around you. While I have my own set way of seeing the world around me, interacting with various aspects of this world and beyond – it is always refreshing to me to see topics that I am locked down on my way of understanding, from the perspective of another. It may not sway my perspective, but it does help me to remember – not everyone does things the same way that I do. Nor do they perceive things in the same manner that I do. And for me, speaking as a single individual, this is an important aspect of what Spirituality is all about: finding your own perspective while respecting that of others.

One thing that I have started to formulate in my mind, is where I want to go with my knowledge-base that I am accumulating in the work I am doing in the OBOD grades. When I first started, it was all about the titles…becoming a Druid within the OBOD framework. However, it is becoming more than that in my mind now. I want the knowledge, and the title is a nice piece of that puzzle – but when I finish, I would like to find a way to become a tutor within OBOD – to help others, while keeping them going and making forward progress in their studies. I realize what these Gwers are doing for me – helping me with a stronger base to my own personal beliefs, providing me with a knowledge-base and skill set that will help me through both my Spiritual and mundane perspectives in my life. I really hope to reach that potential going forward in my studies and my life.

Yes, being in OBOD Gulf Coast Gathering helps to facilitate a lot of this type of thinking. There’s the pleasure of seeing people that are so near and dear to your heart, as well as the new folks – some of whom are participating in their very first steps in OBOD. And getting the chance to participate in rituals, initiations, conversations and fellowship with people that you “click” with. It is an experience that is incomparable to any other for me. I would not trade this for anything in the world.

The OBOD Camp Experience – Gulf Coast Gathering 2018 Version – Getting There

I am in Covington, Louisiana (opposite side of the lake from New Orleans) for the OBOD Gulf Coast Gathering. This is the fourth year of this little gathering – and the fourth year I have attended. And I do not see myself missing any into the future, unless work or illness gets in the way.

IMG_1593Its a short drive here from home. About 600 miles, around 9-10 hours if I am not pulling the trailer with me – an additional three hours if I am. This year, well – I am not traveling with it. Thanks to my own fault, I don’t have a current registration on the trailer – and I am just not going to pull it without current paperwork on it. But its OK, its just one trip. I will take care of that when I get back. My truck gets a range of approximately 450 miles on a full tank of gas. But with the trip being mostly interstate driving, the truck’s transmission optimizes that rate to expand my range to nearly 600 miles. In other words, I can nearly make the trip one way on a single tank of gas. Nearly.

The drive, for the most part, is typically interstate fare. Not a lot to see out of the windshield, and a lot of time to think. Thanks to some downloaded “Down at the Crossroads” episodes, I get to listen to excellent conversations – and usually learn something while I am driving. And while I could take a flight to New Orleans, rent a car and drive across the bridge – I do enjoy the distance driving because I do get a chance to reflect on various things and allow my mind a time frame to wind down a bit from the stress of work. Plus, I’m not a fan of flying – if I were completely honest.

So what draws me down here for three days every year? Why do I always make the time to be here? Its not a really complicated answer. This gathering is home to me. I did my Bardic grade initiation here in the gathering’s first year. I am still in contact with most of the other initiates who also had their Bardic initiations during that gathering. Last year, I had my Ovate grade initiation here. The year previous to that one was the year that the “Screen Door Boar” incident took place. The people that come to this gathering are more than friends to me – they are family. And even if the gathering moved to another nearby location, it would still be home to me because it is not about the location – this is about these folks.

At this year’s gathering, I have asked to help out more with the initiations for both Bardic and Ovate grades. I intend to provide myself to help out more during the ceremonies, because I no longer want to just be a spectator. I want to help facilitate the experiences of others. I look forward to the conversations I will have over the next few days with the folks here – both those that I already know, and those that I have yet to meet. As an individual who is in a solo situation, the times where I have the chance to fellowship with other Pagans is generally few and far between, aside from online. Plus, I know how awesome, and intimidating my first moments at an OBOD camp were – and I want to be able to extend my welcoming hand to those newcomers as others had done so for me.

Now, others are drawn close to the land here. And its an interesting mix of bayou swamp and Louisiana woodlands around the camp. Me? Not so much. My last two years of high school were spent in the northwest corner of the state in Shreveport. And the woodlands there are quite similar to the woodlands here. And its just not a part of the land that really calls to my soul. Not like the northern tier of the Rocky Mountains do. For me, those mountains are the true calling of home. My trip to Glacier National Park (a three-day drive, but worth it to me) was an experience I will never forget at any point in my life. But the bayous of Louisiana just do not have the same call for me. The first year of the gathering, the weather was nice and nearly Spring-like. Every year since has been much cooler and far wetter. This year, the wet times have already happened. So there will likely be some mud. The weather is looking good, so maybe some things will dry out and some more walking can be had.

This year’s guest will be Philip Carr-Gomm, the current Chief of the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids. I have never had the pleasure of meeting Philip before or hearing him speak in person. I have had the chance to catch him in the recorded versions of “Tea With Philip” that he does on Facebook. However, the timing of the live broadcasts via Facebook Live tend to happen while I am at work, so I rarely get the chance to participate (though I would love to). I am looking forward to hearing Philip speak – particularly in a segment entitled “The Future of Druidry” which is something I have been wrestling with in thought for quite some time and have even blogged about a few times here on “Life With Trickster Gods“. It is quite likely that I will be blogging about this again in the very near future (‘natch!).

This will be the first of a few blogs that I will write while I am here. The point is to provide my own point of view of what you might experience when coming to this gathering. Like I said, I consider the folks who run this to be family, and for me this gathering is home. Thus I am quite biased in my perspective, and quite enthusiastic as to the experiences I have here. But hopefully, you – whoever is reading this – can glean an idea of what this is all about, and hopefully come to an OBOD camp – here in North America – or wherever else one may be held. And hopefully, in the future, I can find time (and money) to make an OBOD camp outside of North America – and expand my own personal experience of what OBOD offers in these camps. But as I said before…for me, the most important part of this is the fellowship with other Pagan folks…and family that I rarely get to see outside of the internet.

May your day be magickal and provide opportunities you did not realize existed.  –Tommy /|\

Spending Time With My OBOD Family

The past five days have been a complete adventure for me. Wednesday and Sunday were thirteen-hour marathons of driving with my RV trailing behind my truck. The days in-between were filled with fun, awesome presentations, and some super excellent food. Somewhere in all of that, I wound up initiating into the Ovate grade, which I am still floored over. And there was my telling of the saga of the Screen Door Boar and the Bardic Initiates around the Saturday night fire. But the best part? That’s extremely simple. It is the people.

Every Gulf Coast Gathering has afforded me the opportunity to get to know several folks. I count many of these people as family. And they are far too numerous to name without me leaving off a name or two because I have an old man’s memory. Each of them has played a role, in one way or another, in my life. Whether they know it or not. And that goes just as well for the “friends of OBOD” folks who attend as well. I am deeply honored, and quite lucky to have these people in my life.

When people ask me about these OBOD retreats, I typically respond that I can only talk intelligently of two – the Gulf Coast Gathering and the East Coast Gathering. There are other camps elsewhere, and while I am quite confident that these camps are just as warm and welcoming as ECG and GCG, I have not attended those before. If you are an OBOD member and wondering if it is worth your time to travel to a camp, I would emphatically say “YES!” The people you meet there will be tied into your life in ways you could never imagine possible. All you need to do is open your heart.

For me, a huge part of what Druidry is about is connectivity. With the land around, with the Spirits of Place, with the Spirits of Ancestor, with the Gods and Goddesses….and with people. All of that connectivity helps to define the way we live, and the depth that we love at. And its not a one-time walk on a pathway either. Its a lifetime exploration. For me, that’s the easiest way to define life. Its not an all-encompassing way to see things, but it is a way to START to see things.

Let’s be realistic, Life is complicated in so many ways. With local, county, regional, state, national, and world politics, changing laws, and the ceaseless news cycle – its easy to get bogged down with things that can be crazy, bewildering, and sometimes downright depressing. But boil all of that away, and what you have left are the things that matter. And for me, that’s the people I know and cherish, the Spirits of Place, my Spirits of Ancestor and the Gods. My Druidry helps me to weave and strengthen those connections. And all of that culminates in these OBOD gatherings. And when members of my extended family are missing for whatever reason, there’s that feeling of an empty chair around the fire, and I can literally picture them in that spot – laughing and smiling along with everyone else.

So, while I did go to Gulf Coast Gathering to initiate into the Ovate grade, and was thrilled to do so, it was the people that made it memorable. To be able to hug people I look up to, people that I call friend, and people that I call family – that made all the difference between an initiation and a moment I will cherish forever in my life. Having friends and family there was all the icing on that cake-like moment that I needed. And being able to entertain my friends and family with the telling of the saga of the Screen Door Boar and the Bardic Initiates was the final cherry added to the mix. I did enjoy making my friends and family laugh at the silly antics of a moment from the previous year.

–Tommy /|\

Pinky-to-Talon Swear – Moments of Transition

This particular blog post is coming to you from Fountainbleu State Park campground in Louisiana. I made it here after twelve hours pulling my RV behind my truck from north central Texas. So why I did I drag my RV down here? For OBOD’s Gulf Coast Gathering, of course!

This is the last of my major trips for the front part of the year. I will be attending Many Gods West later this year, as well as CalderaFest (which I will again pull the RV along with me). As an introvert, coming out to Pagan gatherings, festivals and conferences its a tough experience for me – but there was a promise made. Pinky-to-talon swear. But the OBOD GCG is a different thing from those.

First off, this is family. These people are members of my extended family. Many of them have burrowed their way into my heart and life over the past few years. Some of them, I have known much longer – and our friendship has turned into something much deeper. For me, this is a yearly family reunion. Where we can hunt Screen-door-swinging-in-the=Breeze Boars, play London Bridge with the Bardic initiates, sit down to talk/laugh/carry-on – essentially build experiences and moments that will sustain us for another fifty-one weeks of the coming year.

Second, its a moment of transition for me. This year, I will be advancing from the Bardic grade to the Ovate grade. After seven years of working my way through the Bardic Gwers, my constant stopping and starting; I have made it through and am moving forward in my studies. All due to another pinky-to-talon swear. I am excited, anxious, and completely terrified at where things go from here. This is the moment where I step off well-worn Path and move into an area of the forest I am unsure of. Where the Path ceases to be a well-walked foot path, and becomes a slightly discernible deer trod.

Over the past few weeks, three themes have been recurring in nearly everything I do:  death, dreams, and freedom. And as I walk further along these new steps to my Path, I can see where these all intersect at varying points coming up. Or perhaps its a slight illusion where I think that the bridge I see in the distance is part of the Path I walk, but its actually not.

There’s only one way to find out, eh? Taking the step forward. And then putting another step forward. I have mentioned it before, its time for me to be the Priest I am supposed to be. It is long past time to pick myself up off the Path, dust off my hindquarters and get on with being the Druid I am. Its time for me to start digging deeper into stories, myths, and communication. Being stagnant on the Path is nice for a short rest, but I have rested enough. And as I said, I am excited, anxious and terrified about where those steps will take me. Onwards. /|\

Back From Another Gulf Coast Gathering….

Been gone for a few days, and I didn’t have any blog posts queued up for delayed release. So, shame on me for all of that. I will have to do a better job of writing going into the future. But I have a good reason…I was away at the annual OBOD Gulf Coast Gathering (2nd one so far), near Mandeville, Louisiana.

Last year, when I attended, a few life changing moments happened in my life. During the camp, I received news that my father had passed away in his home in Hot Spring Village, Arkansas. It was a moment that I handled semi-well during camp, but I have not forgotten (and never will) the outpouring of compassion and love I received from people I had not met until that retreat. A short while later, I regained my center, and underwent initiation for the Bardic Grade with a fine group of others. Since that night, those fellow initiates (and a few others from the ECG camp later in the year) have become some of my closest family members. They’re not just friends…they are far more and far deeper than that in my heart. Seeing many of these same initiates in camp again this year, literally made my heart sing with joy. And we all picked up right where we left off last year – laughing, cracking jokes, hugging on one another, and generally being the unruly children that we are. (grins) There were a few that could not make it for one reason or another…which was heart-breaking, but understandable. Life does get in the way…but they were always in our thoughts, every single moment we were there. We shall see them soon enough.

A walking trail near the GCG campsite

Many times, I have been asked what OBOD camps are like. The only adjective I have is that the camps are just flat out awesome. And that’s a weak description, because the camps are so much more than that. The panel discussions, the rituals, meals, campfires, walks in the woods, one-on-one conversations into the later hours of the night…all of that rolls together into something that cannot be described – only experienced. The contact high that I have from leaving camp and coming back to my daily routine at home is something I will carry with my in my heart through to the next year.

And there is so much to thank our hosts – Highland Oak Nemeton – for. They made our time there fun, informative, and it seemed as if nothing went awry. I have worked a few conventions in my time, and I know that it is never the case that everything goes flawlessly…but its a true testament to their dedication when stuff that does not go as planned is hardly noticed. I, for one, was truly impressed by the manner in which everything proceeded, and that those helping to host the event still had plenty of time to connect, talk, discuss, and enjoy our company as well.

Yes, for those asking, it did rain. A few times. But nothing that could extinguish the warmth of our time together there. I spent a lot of my time reconnecting my group of Bardic initiates from last year, and getting to know the equally fun and impressive group of Bardic initiates for this year’s camp. I see and feel a completely warm, and ever-growing family in the eyes and faces that I encountered in camp. And that warmth and love will remain with me until next year, when I make it back to the Gulf Coast Gathering.

So, again, I apologize for not putting out posts on a time-delayed fuse while I was gone. I have not gotten good enough in my writing to manage that just yet. But I am working towards it. I came away from camp with a lot of topics sloshing around in my usually empty head. And I am already in the process of outlining some of those into blog posts, which I am looking forward to sharing. In the meantime, you get my stream of consciousness post here. 🙂