Thinking About: I Prefer Being an Informal Teacher

“Why aren’t you teaching online Pagan classes like {x} or [y} are doing?”

::big sigh:: Every so often, I’ll get asked why I’m not teaching some kind of online class in Paganism. I hear this question at least twice per month. Nine times out of ten, I don’t really have much of an answer. When I do manage to give an answer, its never a really adequate one, or at least that’s the way I always feel. Going deeper into the reasoning, everything boils down to a few points – none of which seem to be absolutely convincing arguments.

You see, I spent three and a half years in the collegiate classroom as an adjunct instructor. I taught Introduction to Business Applications, which allowed me to talk about something I really enjoy: computers and the ways to use computers. I have nearly the same number of years working in the various parts of the Information Technology world as I do on a Pagan path. The computers beat the Pagan path by a mere year and a half. I have worked on mainframes, desktop systems, mobile systems of all sorts, and servers. I have fulfilled positions of maintenance, Help Desk (Levels I and II), Customer Service, Database operations, programming, Systems analysis, Data Specialist, Systems Administration, and even more functions than I can recall. When I got the chance to talk to folks about all of that, while supplying lesson material aimed towards teaching them what a system does and how to use the applications on the system – I was really within my element. Over the period of a semester, I would get to know my students better, so as to tailor parts of the course to the majors or emphasis that they were working on within their collegiate careers. Over that time, I even became something of a “father confessor” to some of the students, helping them with real-life issues that they encountered. I may have been a professor for a little more than 1,000 days, but I have never had a more exhilarating time within my entire career. As you can see, I can’t rely on the excuse that I am not a teacher. There is no doubt in my mind that I am.

Its not the technology or the platform that would give me pause to say no. After all, I’ve worked long enough in the technology field that new applications and hardware do not intimidate me. Otherwise, I would not have lasted long in my chosen career field. No, my two reasons are a bit different from that side of things.

In a way, my primary reason will sound…not appropriate to some ears. It has to with money. I have never felt “right” about accepting money from others. I know, I know. If I was teaching a class, I would be offering a service to others, and payment would be something that would be associated and expected for it. Except that accepting money for providing my perspective on how to be a Pagan…just doesn’t feel “right” to me. In a way, I see what I would provide as a perspective on Spirituality to be something that would be done around a campfire, while we all sip on drinks of our choice. At most, share a pint with me…and we would be even-steven. Sounds dumb, doesn’t it? But it really is a major hang up of mine when it comes to the idea of teaching Paganism to others.

Honestly, I’ve never been great about asking for money. Back when I was podcasting, I had a nearly two-year period where I was unemployed. I put a Paypal link up on the website for the podcast, which was basically asking if anyone felt moved enough to donate for the hosting services for the podcast, I would appreciate it. I think I said something about the Paypal link on two shows and never mentioned it again. Over the eight years of the show, I received one donation which helped to cover one and a half month of the hosting services. That was more than I ever expected to get. I used the monies completely on the hosting services, and still I felt guilty for having gotten it. Receiving monies has never been a strong point for me.

The other issue that I have over teaching simply comes from my personal belief that I am not ready to be a teacher within Paganism. The old adage that “when the student is ready, the teacher will arrive” goes in the other direction too – at least I think so. When the teacher is ready, the students will be there. Or maybe not. Perhaps, the teacher never really gets the chance to be completely ready. Maybe? I have never been completely sure about taking a single student under my wing. I’ve never seen myself as much of an expert to be able to fulfill the obligations and responsibilities of being a teacher. Perhaps that’s not really a lack of readiness and more of placing myself on a lower rung of confidence.

This is not the same struggle that I have with the terminology of being a Priest. Though there are some who would draw a correlation between the two. I am not struggling with the definitive aspects of being a teacher. My struggle comes more from not seeing myself as an expert or knowledgeable enough to be in such a position.

Now, with all that said, I know a few folks that are teaching their brand of Paganism on the internet. Whenever I get asked about such situations, I point students to these folks. Why? Because I respect their knowledge, their confidence, and yes – their expertise in teaching what they do. Would I take a class with any of them? Sadly, no. I think what they are doing is awesome, but my personal brand of Paganism is not the same as theirs. That doesn’t mean I think they are lousy at what they do – merely that our approach is different enough that I would spend a large part of my time adapting their foundations to my fit my own, and not get any value out of the rest of the material. However, like I said – its not saying that their stuff is so different that I wouldn’t recommend it. I think they do an awesome job. I really do.

With these two fundamental issues, I would have a really difficult time teaching to anyone via any forum or delivery system – save one. That would be the good old-fashioned deep-night discussion around a campfire. In that environment, I find myself at ease to talk about subjects, knowing that I am only espousing my perspective and opinion to others. No talk of compensation (unless you count a nice hug before we head off to our separate sleeping arrangements). I know. So weird to hear/read a Pagan that isn’t looking for compensation for what they provide to the community. The discussion wouldn’t be some kind of lecture hall, where I am set to the front like some kind of matter expert. Its just a night-time discussion around the fire. Nothing beyond that.

Perhaps my perspective tells you that I lack confidence. Maybe it even rubs against the grain and you view me as some kind of a snake-oil salesman. For me, I see my perspective as being something less than a teacher/mentor point of view, and more of a less formal discussion. I’ve always felt that the informal perspective is best. It places everyone on the same level, so we can see eye-to-eye.

–Tommy /|\

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Thinking About: Past, Present or Future…Please Do This.

Well, the holiday season has finally descended on this madness we call “daily Life.” Thanksgiving, Yule and the calendar New Year are all lined up in a row, promising too much time with those family members that we don’t get along with. There’s not much for me to worry about over all of this. My DNA family live at least a single day’s worth of hard driving from here – so there would need to be some serious planning that happens for something like this to come together, and there’s been no serious planning. My nearest DNA relative is my sister down in Baton Rouge…and we barely acknowledge that the other exists. So, the holiday season should prove to be fairly quiet and easy to manage for me.

This past weekend, on the drive back from Missouri, I managed to pick up a few shows on Satellite Radio from National Public Radio (NPR for those who prefer acronyms). In one of the programs, there was a segment where musicians of today were asked what they would want to tell musicians of the future, say twenty-five years into the future. I found a lot of the discussion to be quite interesting and fascinating, prompting me to wonder a bit about what I would want to tell Pagans twenty-five years into the future. I’ve covered this before, sort of. I believe that the only thing I could really relate to the Pagans of the future is to “be true to who you are in everything that you do.”

Looking back over the past, I wish it was a point that was stated with a bit more volume than it was back in the late 1980s. But as I am reminded by so many Science Fiction stories and movies and books: you can’t change the Past without making the Present wildly different. All I can do is lament the fact that it took me nearly a third of my Pagan path to realize how important this point would be to my own Spirituality.

Say a Pagan from the Future popped into my office through whatever technology that they had and wanted to sit down for a cuppa and a talk. After I got finished freaking out over the fact that someone just popped into my office without coming through the front door, would I impart that little bit of wisdom on them? Maybe. Probably not. I would love to be helpful but providing my little bit of knowledge may change the outcome of the world at that point. However, perhaps if I imparted that bit of wisdom, the world could be made better from that point on? Would I? It’s a rather heavy decision to make, one that I believe would have some answers within the mysterious world of quantum physics (maybe).

I know, I know. I can feel so many of you rolling your eyes over the scenario and concept. Besides, I’m no heavy thinker or major influencer. Why would anyone want to listen to me? Yet, here I am typing all of this out. Why? Well, I believe that every single person influences the world around them, regardless if they even realize it.

I live by a handful of thoughts. (1) In whatever you do, be kind to everyone. You never know how much you can change their day. (2) In everything that you do, be true to yourself. (3) No matter what happens, the designated hitter in baseball is evil and should only remain in the American League. (4) John F. Kennedy Jr. is indeed dead. (5) President Biden won the election fair and square. Ok, maybe only the first two are me being completely serious, although I do firmly believe in number five.

If I had to impart “wisdom” on the future generations of Pagans, it would be the first two points in the previous paragraph. Even in the face of persecution that Pagans suffer every single day at the hands of right-wing Christian extremists. Because if we continue the cycle of being harmful towards one another over our beliefs, then the denigration, anger, and such will never stop. In fact, I believe it will continue to escalate. Just tossing my two quid into the pot. In fact, I’ll call at this point. 😊

So, let’s say that I am approached by the future, as I have laid it out previously. Would I impart my “knowledge” on to the future? Well, yes I would. (Ignore the contradiction with what I’ve already said) My points on being kind and being true…these are not going to hurt anyone else if imparted to the future. Perhaps, these two points could enhance their future by providing them the framework for something I see disappearing from our modern society on both sides of the political spectrum: compassion. If I am supposedly important enough for our future Pagan to utilize the awesome technology to rip through the fabric of the space/time continuum – than I should absolve myself of the responsibility to protect the space/time continuum and impart these words to that time traveling space hippie. Besides, what harm could I really do, right? At worst, a short talk with me might get our future Pagan to realize we don’t really need dishes. Empty plastic butter-tubs make good bowls. Seriously. 😊

Coming back from my silly, sarcastic perspective – the best I can impart to anyone, present or future, is to be kind to everyone. And while doing that, be true to who you are. Don’t be something you’re not. Don’t follow the trends unless those trends speak to who you are. Walk your Path. On your terms. Your footsteps are your own. And if you’re from the future…just tell me that y’all ditched that “new” Coke formula. My generation was dead wrong about that shit.

–Tommy /|\

Thinking About: To Group or Not to Group

“You hate Pagans working in groups, huh?”

“Being solo means that you aren’t understanding the correct way to do things.”

“You’re not a ‘good’ Pagan when you don’t have someone to mentor you along the way.”

“Working your Spirituality alone is the Path to doing things absolutely wrong.”

This is just some of the stuff I’ve heard over the last fifteen-plus years. When I run afoul of the Pagan-Groups-Mafia, some iteration of this gets thrown in my face. How I have no idea of how to be a Pagan because I don’t espouse group work is the only “correct” way to handle one’s Spirituality. I usually find this back-and-forth stuff to be unhelpful, at best. I will; however, reiterate one thing concerning all of this before I start scratching the surface a little harder: many of the group-oriented Pagans that I know are not in this category. Those that I have met that are a part of a Grove, Coven or what have you…they tend to be respectful, and sometimes inquisitive towards a non-group approach to a Spiritual path.

So why talk about this at all? If its such a minor derivative set of folks, why bring about this focus? Well, while folks like this are a minor sub-set, they are quite vocal, and can sometimes be quite aggressive towards solo Pagans. In a series of belief systems grouped together under a wide umbrella, that can be quite distressing to those that encounter those with such a strong zeal. What I offer here is not the quintessential “survival” manual for such moments. Instead, I am offering some of my own perspectives on what occurs, and a few tips on how I’ve dealt with these folks in the past.

HATING THOSE WORKING IN GROUPS

I have been accused of this numerous times, including in the very not-so-distant past. Truth be told…I have a hard time hating ANYBODY. It’s a super strong emotion that requires a lot of energy. I’m quite lazy by nature. So, I can’t work up the concept of hate towards anyone. You’re laughing, but I am quite serious. Its far easier for me (and more conducive to my own mental health) to just point myself to disagreeing with others’ perspectives and letting it sit there. If there’s a desire from across the way to escalate things further…I’ve found it easier to just walk away. Escalating the emotions involved is just not a direction I want to head. I disagree with group work – for me at this point in my own Spiritual path. However, I started by working in a coven. This was where I learned some of the basic basics that apply to Wicca, but also have a cross pollination into Druidry as well. None of that killed me, made me hate working in groups, or created a distrust of what others will say about Spiritual paths. In the past, I have counseled fledgling Pagans that finding a group dynamic that works for them will provide a more conducive environment to learning and understanding some of the basic fundamentals of what Paganism is about. If you have a desire to go the solo route later on, the material you learn in a group will be formative to designing elements of a solo practice. Groups are not something to hate or fear.

ON YOUR OWN

Well, there’s no real measure to say that you should spend [x] amount of time in a group. In fact, you don’t have to spend a single second in a group to achieve what you want. How hard doing it alone is depends on you and you alone. Looking back, I’m glad I got my basic foundation within the bounds of a group. However, I can understand if that doesn’t work for everyone. After all, we all process and understand information differently. What works for me will not necessarily work for someone else.

But what about the drama that goes with every group? The power struggles, the personality differences, the awkward dating issues within a group that ultimately arise? Well, I’ve been through all of that. Yes, a lot of that stuff sucks. And it’s a bad moment when it takes place. BUT….   That happens in any group. Even Christians go through these dynamics issues within their congregations. That’s a bad example…but its easiest to understand. I promise you, that shit takes place in military squadrons and commands. I’d even bet that you can find these dynamics playing out in a professional sports team, except that its kept behind the scenes to avoid bad publicity which generates even more drama with team management and ownership. Drama is going to happen no matter where you have people gathering together. I’m not going to offer advice how to get beyond the drama factor because…as I said…what works for one person does not necessarily work for another.

If you’re dedicated enough to work within a group, you will find ways to make the dynamic work. Trust me, a group dynamic is like a large polycule relationship. It takes just as much communication to make a group work as it does to make a polyamorous (or even a monogamous) relationship work.

GOING SOLO IS NOT ALWAYS THE ANSWER (NOR EASY)

You can go solo to get away from the difficult dynamics or if you prefer to be the sole individual in charge. But being solo has its own difficulties as well. You have no one to really bounce ideas off of. There’s a tendency to not have other Pagans to just socialize. Humans are naturally social creatures. Sometimes you have no choice but to go solo. You’re in a small town and are apparently the only Pagan for miles around. But if you do have the choice, think carefully about what you are wanting to do.

I live in a small “city” (Hillsboro is not a city no matter what it wants to claim) between the Dallas/Fort Worth area and the city of Waco. I am a solo Pagan on my own. The nearest Pagans to me are over an hour of driving (one-way) away. And those are the ones that I know of. I do most things on my own. The only interaction I tend to have with other Pagans is at an OBOD retreat in Louisiana, which hasn’t been held for the last two years because of COVID-19. Being a solo Pagan has been very lonely, except for the internet. But even internet friendships can only hold back the lonely feelings for so long. As I said, human beings are social creatures. Researching topics is a solo effort, which might be better (and provide a lot more information) when tasks are broken up between others. Plus group discussions on research always yields many different perspectives since there are more than just two eyes on the situation. Everything you have within a group will fall on a singular pair of shoulders – yours. That’s a lot more work than you think.

FINAL THOUGHTS

I get excoriated a lot because of my championing individuality within a Spiritual practice. The are a lot of folks that come to the assumption that I hate group-work and loathe the people that do group-work. However, they do so because they do not know where my Spiritual path started or how much group-work has been essential to my laying down and creating my own foundational aspects to my own Spiritual practice (ugh, I dislike that term). Instead of responding back in angry tones, bringing back the same hardcore angry energy, I’ve found its better to ground, center, and remain true to myself. Group work is not bad. Its not evil. Its not being spoon-fed material. Like any repository of knowledge, you get out of it what you put into it. But its not for everyone. And the only way that you will know if it is or isn’t…is to try it for yourself. For me, it was a critical part of me foundation later on my Spiritual path – as a solo Pagan. Again, its not bad or evil. Its just not for everyone.

–Tommy /|\

Howling Into the Wind: I’m Not A “Holy” Man

I am a Priest. Whether I care one whit about the term, I AM a Priest. I have spoken on and off about my on again/off again perspective of being just this. I tried to push away the concept from myself. I have grudgingly accepted the point. I have struggled with terminology, perspective, and the entire concept of being thus – all thanks to my schooling in Catholic schools. Yes, my schooling. Since the 7th grade, I have exclusively gone to Catholic schools, courtesy of my parents. As a short sidebar, my parents were wanting to provide me with a more structured and disciplined education than public schools in Alabama and Louisiana had to offer. They wanted the best advantages they could provide for their children. I understand all of that. I did not thrive in my parochial education. While my test scores for college acceptance (my SAT and ACT test scores) were very good, my high school grades were not. I was not a fan of being spoon fed doctrine for a religious belief system that my parents were not members of. All of that feeds into my personal dislike of the term “Priest.”

So, with that early background, along with a handful of posts here on the blog, and you have a fair assessment over how I’ve struggled with the term being applied to me. Slowly, I’ve come to grips with the term, but not with the concept behind the terminology. All of that, I’ve had very few issues with. Me performing a handfasting? I’ve never done it, but I know I’m capable of doing it. Plus, I can always run screaming and crying to Cat for tips and a better understanding. She’s the tops in my book, so that’s where I would head for help, advice, and comforting over my feelings of inadequacy. But if someone truly wanted that, I could do it. Being on hand to help with the funeral of someone? I could do that too. I’d likely contact Kristoffer Hughes for help and advice. Plus, I have his book “The Journey Into Spirit” for even more source material and assistance. I already have provided advice and assistance to new Pagans seeking direction in their own Spiritual Paths and will continue along that pathway. Honestly, I’m not the most skilled Priest in the world, but that’s due to a lack of experience – not a lack of knowledge or drive.

So yesterday, I rolled across a descriptive of a Priest that kicked up a lot of the red flags that brought my consternation over the term.

You are a Priest. You speak for the Gods. You are a holy man. You teach people how to build relationships with the Gods. Your work IS holy.

Teaching people to build relationships with the Gods. Ok, I can grok this point. It’s akin to helping people find their way to the Spiritual Path that they wish to explore. I’m not a Wiccan, but I know enough Wiccans to either find an appropriate avenue for a Seeker to travel or initiate contact between the Seeker and the Wiccan. So I can understand that part of what I can do is help those who are trying to make that connection to the Gods, but always with the caveat that the Gods call who They call. Having any of the Gods leaning over your shoulder and whispering in your ear doesn’t happen for everyone. But I understand how this is the duty of a Priest. It’s the rest of the statement that I take umbrage with.

As I’ve said, I am a Priest. I am a Druid. I work with Crow, Coyote, and Abnoba. None of that means that I speak FOR the Gods. I work WITH my two Gods and my singular Goddess. I’m not an Oracular aspect for any of Them. As far as I can remember, which doesn’t mean that its canon or some holy writ, Oracles are not Priests – and vice versa. But I wouldn’t rule it out completely. As I have commented so many times before – I’m only an expert on me. I don’t create holy writ or canon for anyone. But I can, without the shadow of a doubt, proclaim that as a Priest, I speak for NONE of the Gods.

Nor am I a “holy man.” Describing a Priest in this fashion falls far too close to Catholic perspective for me. The work I do is not “holy work” and never would be. The work I do WITH my Gods is not some holy manifestation of Them on this earth. I know that THEY are capable of handling that without my assistance or compliance. Laying a descriptive of “holy” at my feet simply because I accept the descriptive term of “Priest” being applied towards me is just not what I see. HOWEVER…..

Working as a Priest to handfast a couple is a moment that might be described as “holy.” Being there to witness a couple (or a poly triad or what have you) pledge their undying love and compassion to the Universe…that’s a “holy” privilege. The same can hold true for funeral rites, rites of passage, and even leading a ritual celebrating the turning of the Wheel of the Year. So I could say that some work that a Priest does can be considered “holy” in its nature. But I do submit that performing in these roles (and others that would equally apply) do not make me a “holy man.”

Others will disagree with me on that, but it’s the one area that I am firmly taking my stand. I am not a holy man. I am a Pagan. I am a Druid. I am capable of performing the functions of a Priest. I am a Teacher. I am just me. A simple, humble Pagan – trying to live my life one day at a time. Sometimes just one hour at a time. Sometimes even smaller time increments than that.

–Tommy /|\

Thinking About: Too High, Much Too High

I’m writing this blog a day early, as I will be on the road on Thursday and the weekend. It just makes sense to me to write the three blog posts for the week at the same time. Don’t ask, its my insanity. 😉

The following showed up on Facebook as a November 15th memory from three years ago (2018). I thought this might be a good starting place for this blog post.

PM Q: Who do you count as a mentor?

Oh wow. Uhm, I’m not sure I can count anyone as a mentor nor would I want to curse them with that title or position within my life. A lot of that is placing them on pedestals, no matter how small or large, and that is just a lofty location I would not want to put anyone.

I do have folks that I consider to as influences in my life. Cat Treadwell, Nimue Brown, and Joanna van der Hoeven have all played roles in my growth as a Pagan and a Druid to this point in my life. Their books and blogs have served as starting points for discussions in my own life on topics that I needed to sort out. Kristoffer Hughes continues to be an inspiration on how to approach life with a zest and passion for the good stuff, in whatever form it can be found. And there are so many others that I could continue to name for one reason or another…essentially, if you are in my life, I draw a piece of my daily passion or a slice of growing from you…and I wouldn’t want it any other way. But none of these folks are mentors or folks that I look up to. Each of them are people I look in the eye…because to treat them any differently would be an injustice to what they have helped me to discover for myself – people are people. Besides I cannot get awesome hugs from them when they are so far above me…its far easier if we are standing toe-to-toe with one another. And hugs…are everything.

Me, 11/15/2018, Facebook

We’ve all watched the entire issue happen before, particularly if we know someone who became popular in the wider Pagan community. A person writes a book, gives a series of public talks, offers classes, publishes/creates music, or any other number of things – any of which catch the fancy of the wider Pagan community. That popularity elevates them to an unspoken status of being a “BNP” – a “Big Name Pagan.” Their elevated status places them in a position of being consider some kind of “hero” or “mentor” to others. When those BNPs attend public gatherings, people tend to treat what has been conveyed in a talk as some kind of “holy writ.”

I’ve known a handful of these “popular” Pagans over the years. Many never wanted to be elevated to any status that placed them over others. My first was the late Pattalee Glass-Koentop, the author of two books in the late 1980s/early 1990s with Llewellyn. She was my grandmother Priestess in the first Wiccan group I joined. She was co-owner (I believe) of a locally run Pagan bookshop in Grand Prairie, Texas called “Flight of the Phoenix.” I was stationed at Carswell Air Force Base in west Forth Worth, a fairly decent drive away (a little over an hour, as I recall). When I first met her, I had no idea that she had written a single book, much less two. I just knew she was the grandmother Priestess of the group I had joined, and that I could find Pagan books and music at her store. I always took the time to strike up a conversation with her, and she was very down-to-earth with me. When she finally noted that she had written two books, I purchased one and took it back to my dormitory room to read. When I returned, we struck up a conversation about the book. When we finished, she casually commented that she was pleased that I didn’t give her the “author treatment.” My reply basically noted that she was a human being just like anyone else. Besides, I noted that if I placed her on that pedestal, I couldn’t get a hug from her. Her saucy retort was that this was true, but I could look up her skirt. We both had a belly-laugh over that.

Over the years since then, I have encountered and befriended quite a few more Pagan authors, as well as those that some would refer to as BNPs. I’ve always found that these folks tend to be very aware of their infamous status and are always relieved when you treat them like anyone else. My experience has been that most folks don’t like the lofty heights that a pedestal or hero worship can place someone in. When I was podcasting, I ran into much the same issue…though not nearly the lofty heights that others may have encountered. Both of my podcasts never really took off, even though I put nearly a combined eleven years into that effort. I would surmise that my pedestal that I was offered would only be a few inches in height, but its not the height of the pedestal that seems to be the issue. It’s the matter of being held in a position of being “more important” than anyone else.

When I taught at the community college, I got some similar experience from various students over those three years. After my very first semester, I was determined to extinguish the attitude that I was unapproachable as a professor. That somehow, just accepting the role of professor in the classroom, made me better than my students. That was never true though. After that first semester, I started every first day of class by reminding the students that I was no expert in Information Technology. That the difference between myself and them was merely years of experience. The amount of experience doesn’t make one better than others. It merely means that I’ve done things in that discipline a lot more often than the student has done.

I’ve been the neophyte. I’ve been the student. I’ve been the inexperienced one. I’ve been the one doubting every new step because the environment is new and unfamiliar. And to be completely honest, every BNP that is out there – they’ve been in the same spot too. If they claim that they haven’t, they are being completely dishonest. No one crawls out of the womb with the knowledge of someone that has mastered a discipline. Mastery of a discipline takes a lot of study, a lot of hard work, a lot of experience, and a lot of mistakes. Everyone had the same starting location. Some learn faster and deeper than others. Its part of what makes us all different and individual.

I have my heroes – people that I look at and wish I had their talent. The late-Cliff Burton, the late-Randy Rhoads, the late-“Dimebag” Darrel Abbott, Joe Satriani, and many of the Pagan authors that I have met, as well as conversed with. But I don’t want to place them above me…any of them. I prefer them at eye level, which isn’t always possible. For example, Kristoffer Hughes TOWERS over me. I think I am just below being able to look him in the armpit. With that said, Kristoffer gives the most amazing hugs, where I get dangled a foot off the ground. These folks (and so many more) have touched my life in such profound ways. They are all heroes to me. They are all mentors to my living life the best that I can. But I don’t want to place any of them on a pedestal. I’m only 5’5”. 😊

Remember, all these Pagan folks that you read. All the Pagan folk whose music you purchase and listen to. All of us Pagan bloggers. We’re all people, just like you. I would almost bet the farm that all of them would prefer that you treat them like they were your neighbor, and you were just talking out by your respective driveways. I know I appreciate it when people do that to me – particularly when they tell me that they read my blog and are inspired by what I write. I don’t want to be placed on a pedestal. Besides, I’m scared of heights. No, really I am.

–Tommy /|\

Howling Into the Wind: Mistakes

What if, what if you find you made a mistake
What if, what if it’s worth the chance
That you’re taking

I would never want to see you standing
In the line of fire
You’re the one who has to come to grips
With your own desires

Tommy Shaw, “Remo’sTheme (What If?)

That’s a portion of the lyrics of “Remo’s Theme (What If” by Tommy Shaw from the soundtrack of the Gods-awful 1985 film “Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins.” Great song. Gods awful, horrible film. Tommy also features the song on his album “What If”. But this post is not about that awful film or even the song. This little snippet of the lyrics from the song provides a question that we all encounter within our lives: what if we make a mistake?

Seriously, if I had a dollar for every time I made a mistake, I would be rich beyond my wildest dreams. I would. Most definitely. If I made each of those mistakes weigh a single pound, and then had those mistakes piled on top of me – I would be crushed to death by the sheer weight. You get the picture though: I’ve made quite a few mistakes in my life.

My Spiritual life starts down the road of the Methodist belief system – the beliefs of my parents. But my parents were never serious about their religious beliefs. The Methodist past probably seemed to be the quiet and “safe” path for them. I can’t say for sure. Both of my parents passed beyond the veil a few years back, and throughout my entire life up to the point of their passing, we never discussed Spiritual faith. However, my parents seemed to be enamored with the education style of the Catholic faith and enrolled me and my sister into Catholic schools when we came back to the States from Germany. In Catholic schools, religious education is a requirement for all students. Thus, I was educated in the concepts and beliefs of the Catholic faith. I listened in class. I assimilated the concepts, terminology, procedures, and the such. Fuck, I wanted a good grade. Not that I was a stellar student. I graduated next to last in my high school class. With some of the highest ACT and SAT scores in the class. To tell the honest truth, high school was boring. When I graduated, I looked for a new Spiritual path.

My first stop was the Southern Baptists. Definitely not a good fit from the word “go”. I was viewed as “dangerous” by most of the parents, simply because I asked questions. Starting at this location was a mistake. A mistake that I had to alter when I joined the Air Force. In Basic Training, at our first Chapel service, I filtered myself into a group of trainees that were atheists and agnostics. During chapel service, we were always asked to sit quietly at the back of the chapel and left alone. This choice was another mistake. I had beliefs that there were things out there that were far more powerful than human beings could ever imagine. I just had no words to describe or define what I believed. When I was sent to my first duty station – Carswell Air Force base in Fort Worth, Texas – I stumbled into a Wiccan Priestess, who helped me to understand what Paganism was. I finally had words for what I believed. My first footsteps on my Pagan path began. I would make a few steps along the way with that as well.

When I made mistakes in finding my own Spiritual Path, I backed up, reset my thinking, and chose a different Path. I have often wondered how different I would be if I had just stopped and given up instead. All the people I likely would not have encountered over my thirty-plus years on this Spiritual Path. All the life-long extended family that I have in my life that wouldn’t be there because I had just given up. On top of that, I look back at all the mistakes I have made in my professional life. All the miscalculated results, all the incorrect equipment adjustments. Then there are the mistakes I have made in my own personal life. Trusting the wrong people to have the best intentions towards me. How different would I be if I had not made those mistakes? What if I had just given up and not bothered to try again and again?

Our choices define who we are. Our choices aim us to new experiences that are further down the road. Our mistakes provide experiences that we can learn directly from, just as our successes can do the same. Certainly, I am not proud of all my mistakes. But I made them. I’ve gotten mad at myself for some of my mistakes. Eventually, I got over that anger, picked myself up, dusted myself off, and moved on. Because I believe life is worth living. I believe that the experiences coming are worth continuing for. Good or bad. Life, for me, is about experiences. My Druidry is experiential.

I could have done so many things, baby
If I could only stop my mind
From wonderin’ what I left behind
And from worrying ’bout this wasted time

Eagles, “Wasted Time”

Sitting here looking back, the lyrics to the Eagles song “Wasted Time” come to mind. I can’t change the Past. Playing the “what if” game can be a fruitless pastime. But is it really? My observation of looking back to the choices that we have made is that it is a lot like a project post-mortem. In the Information Technology world, these autopsies look for what practices worked well, and which resulted in bottlenecks that stifled appropriate progress. There’s nothing that you can do for what has already happened. However, you can alter what you do in the future to avoid making the same mistakes. At least that’s the theory, right?

The real point in all of this? Allow yourself to make mistakes. Even the catastrophic ones. So long as no one dies, everything will be alright. Those big mistakes will hurt. They will hurt deeper than you realize. But the experiences is necessary. You won’t get anything from it at first…except for pain, and your self-esteem becoming a hardcore casualty of the process. The pain will lessen over time. Your self-esteem will be built back over time. And those tears? They are a part of the process too. Need a hug? Need someone to comfort you? I can do that for you. I can dry the tears and bring you a wet washcloth to clean your face. I can wrap my arms arounds you and hold you close. Because I’ve been there too. And far more recently than you may realize. I make mistakes too. I’ve been lucky enough to have people who have been there to comfort me, hold me, wipe away my tears, and assure me that everything will be ok…in time. And looking back…its not wasted time. But it’s a moment that needs to stay in the past. Remember, there are numerous new experiences coming. You want those. Good and bad. Because life moves forward. Come on. I’ll walk beside you along the way. I’ll hold your hand if you want me to. We can do it together.

Remember, its not about the mistakes we make. Its about how we bounce back from those mistakes that matters more. Mistkaes are learning experiences, not mortal wounds.

–Tommy /|\

Photo by Jasmine Carter on Pexels.com

Thinking About: Those Formative Years of My Pagan Approach in the US Air Force

Another veterans’ day is upon us. A day where all the fast-food joints around me will be offering free items for me to eat. My local coffee house is offering a free small coffee to thank me for my service. My local Whataburger is offering a small French-fries with any purchase. ::big sigh:: I won’t partake in any of the offers though. I’m not being unappreciative of the offer, its just that accepting free things for the eight years I spent in the military….is not something I am comfortable doing. I served eight years in the Air Force. Those years were formative in becoming the adult that I am now, as well as the Pagan that I am today.

It was the Air Force that taught me to do bulldog problems at the job to ensure that the part of the daily mission that my squadron was responsible for were completed in a timely manner. It was the Air Force that helped develop the troubleshooting skills that I have. It was the Air Force that taught me to use what I had on hand to get something working again and worry about repairing it later in the right way when I had the right materials on-hand. I violated more regulations than I care to admit to, just to ensure that things would work when the mission called for it. Because I know that lives could potentially be on the line. That work attitude has carried over into my professional life, not that it seems to ever be appreciated by those individuals that are in positions of authority above me.

In those same eight years, I was on the front lines of fighting for the rights of the Pagans of today in the military. When I was deployed overseas, it was the first time in my younger years of Paganism that I was on my own. No coven. No High Priest and High Priestess nudging me back on to the Path prescribed by the Tradition. I was on my own. My direction was my own choosing. For me, it was a scary and (often) very lonely time. Much of my free time was spent walking in the woods directly behind Kapaun Air Station. Thick woods, as tends to be the case throughout the wooded areas of Germany. Old woods. It was in these woods that I first encountered a Spirit of Place. Another moment that was jarring for a fledgling Pagan. A moment that has always stayed at the forefront of my memories. A moment that I still have dreams about. During the three years that I was stationed in Germany (Kaiserslautern Military Community), I learned more about being on my own with my personal Spiritual practice (I still detest the sound of this phrase). I did interface with other Pagans, but all of them came from very different perspectives from my own. At best, we were a confederation of individuals who all approached our Paganism in very different ways.

In those three years, I helped with approaching the Ramstein Air Base chaplaincy about allowing a Pagan group access to chapel space for the purpose of holding public ritual. Eventually, we were granted that privilege. However, some of the conversations were contentious with the Chaplain’s office. There were doubts about the legitimacy of what we believed. So, we pointed the chaplain’s to Circle Sanctuary in Wisconsin. Selena Fox (and others, I assume) helped calm the fears and doubts of the Chaplaincy. Our first night together for public ritual, turned out to be my next to last with these folks. A second ritual was held later on one of the Army Kaserne’s, but in a warehouse space. Over time, there occurred the typical power struggles, as well as one individual declaring all of the Pagans that had banded together as a “Wiccan coven under his control.” That led to a lot of us removing ourselves from the group – Pagans, a Santerian Priestess who had joined in solidarity, Wiccans of a different stripe from his, Druids, Ceremonial Magicians – so as not to be lumped into a category or affiliation of what we weren’t. About four months after this, I departed the Air Force and returned back to the United States.

Another military cause that I added myself to was petitioning the leadership at the Pentagon to allow for the terminology of “Pagan”, “Wiccan”, “Druid” – among others – to be placed on our dog tags. The purpose of placing your religious affiliation on your dog tags is to assist the Chaplain’s office for what rites to perform for you, in the event of your untimely death in battlefield conditions. When I originally joined the service in 1986, I was given a list of options to place on my dog-tags for religious affiliation. At that time, I wasn’t a Pagan, but that wasn’t an option. I chose “Other” because I didn’t know. Once I came to realize I was a Pagan, I found I couldn’t add my affiliation to a new set of dog-tags. Pagans were not the only ones that were approaching the Pentagon leadership over a need to change this engraved line on the dog-tags. Eventually, the military service relented, and service members were allowed to provide that line with whatever affiliation they desired. When I left the military service, I surrendered my dog-tags at my final separation, ignorant of the fact that I could keep them if I had wanted. Thus, sadly, I do not have my “Pagan” dog-tags.

Looking back, the eight years of my life that I provided in service to the United States’ military were a mixed bag of success and failure. But the successes far outweigh the failures. I fondly remember a time where the members of the Pagan Support Group (what an awkward name we decided upon) helped clean a wooded area of Ramstein Air Base next to the on-base Burger King. We all rolled up our sleeves, put on gloves, and bagged trash for pickup. No fanfare. No advertisement of our efforts. Just pitching in and getting it done, so our local community had one less trash infested area. I can see the faces of so many people that I spent time with during those three years in Germany. I also recall the hard times at Carswell Air Force Base in Fort Worth, Texas, when I first became public about who I was. The times that my room was searched without announcement or when I was on-shift at my duty assignment. The way that my co-workers suddenly equated me with evil. How I was placed on a shift with three Evangelical preachers because no other shift wanted me working with them. The long interviews with members of the Office of Special Investigations. The threats of pulling my security clearance, which would have effectively ended my military career. Like I said, those eight years were a mixed bag.

My time in the Air Force helped me to grow up and become an adult. I was given responsibilities that helped me to understand that consequences always arise when you neglect the responsibilities that you have. Those eight years also taught me a lot about being solo in my Spiritual responsibilities. How difficult it can be to do things on your own. As well as how rewarding it can be to accomplish things through your own efforts.

I’m chuffed about the eight years I gave in service to this country. It might be a little tarnished compared to the stellar service and approach of others, but I don’t give a shit about that. I bent rules, broke laws, and improvised my way to ensure that the mission was accomplished. I am most proud that I always managed to make things work out, even if it was in the most unconventional manner. I can say the same about those early years of my Paganism. I started out in a coven environment with people I still – for the most part – still talk to today. They were there at the beginning. They will always be family for me. My three years overseas provided an avenue for me to do things on my own. To be able to walk the deep, thick forest on my own, off the beaten Path.

I do, occasionally, wonder how different my Paganism would be had I never been deployed to Germany in the early 1990s, away from the coven I was part of. Would I have stayed on a Wiccan Path? Would I have remained within a group? Would I have never found my way to doing things on my own? I’m never sure of what the answers to those questions would be, but that’s a what-if game that never really produces worthwhile results. I am who I am, what I am because of the experiences that I have had over the thirty-plus years I have been within Paganism. Certainly, I don’t fit the criteria of what some others believe I should be, as a Pagan or Druid, but these are my footsteps – not theirs.

–Tommy /|\

Me – USAF – July 1992

Howling Into the Wind: Non-Mathematical Division

Here in central Tejas, the weather is about to bring another promise of the coming Winter. Right now, the trees are holding on to their leaves. The leaves are clinging to their colors. Two cold fronts will push through the area over the next two days. These aren’t very strong, so the temps won’t get too cold. But the cold fronts will be coming through. I do wish Winter would hurry up and trot on through.

I miss traveling. I still remember the trip to Glacier National Park in Montana. I hate flying. Interest perspective from a former Air Force member, eh? The trip to Glacier was a three-day trek by vehicle. Up across the front edge of the Rocky Mountains, where the majesty of that marvelous mountain range is just right in your face. Then into Wyoming, and then westward into Montana. Glacier National Park was an amazing place to be. But the trip also provided the opportunities to talk with complete strangers from time to time.

Thinking back, never once was there a conversation about politics. Most of the discourse worked along the subjects of where one was from, what did you think about the beautiful scenery, and where have you eaten that you would recommend. You know, simple stuff. So, I fast-forward to my recent trip to Mesa Verde National Park in the south-western corner of Colorado. Everywhere I went, the conversations that I walked past or walked past me were about one topic (or at least it seemed to be at the forefront): American politics. Complaints about Republicans. Complaints about Democrats. Insults aimed at former President Trump. Insults aimed at President Biden. Really hateful stuff. And conversations I never wanted to enter or intrude on. The difference in time? About six years. Maybe a little more.

I’m not a Republican or a Democrat. I’m not even a member of any of the smaller third parties that exist here in the United States. I’m what is termed as a “non-affiliated voter.” But you’ve heard this before, I’m none of that. I’m just me. I’m not overly chuffed with politics or political parties. You’re a registered Republican, a registered Democrat, or whatever other party you can dream of? Bully for you. I’m not impressed or disappointed in any of that. You handle what you need to do. Demand that I be part of your political movement or you will consider me to be a constant and consistent drag on society? Well, you’ll likely see a lot less of me in a social sense. I’ll find other circles to spend my time, probably to your great relief (though that’s an assumption – you still have to do you in that regard).

I have a theory (I have lots of theories) of what is manifesting this massive political perspective of “Us v. Them”. For a long time, our society has lived in a concept of division. We separate people according to their height, weight, skin color, eye color, handedness, social status, income level, intelligence, and a wide myriad of other factors. In achieving that aspect of division, we separate ourselves even deeper through concepts of how to govern our societal aspects, such as states, counties, cities, countries, municipalities, neighborhoods, and such. Once we figure out these divisions, we do our utmost best to protect what we have.

The year after I graduated high school, I attended a Sociology class in my first year of college. The professor who taught the class (whose name escapes me) divided the class into three groups. These groups were labeled as “Upper Class”, “Middle Class” and “Lower Class”. We then played a quiz game, where individuals who answered questions correctly (and first) were awarded points. Then, after the points were awarded, each group were given the chance to gather, and re-allocate all the points in the group. After this period, these points were checked to see if any individual had enough points to be moved from one group to another. After a time of playing, the groups were disbanded, and the students were asked for observations on what occurred. The students in the Upper Class group found that they always allocated the points to keep the lowest members in their group from being sent to the Middle Class. The members in the Lower Class reallocated their points to try and elevate their members with the highest point total into the Middle Class. The Middle Class; however, never re-allocated their points among their group, as each member attempted to move themselves into the Upper Class, while simultaneously attempting to keep themselves from being banished into the Lower Class. This particular exercise always stayed with me as an example of the competition that we seem to be with one another. Always trying to be better than someone else. I’ve never seen that to be more prevalent than it has been in today’s world of politics.

“If you vote for the third party, you’re voting for Trump!” was the cry I heard throughout the last Presidential cycle. I understand the entire statistical aspect that was being crowed in that political battle cry. But a political vote is more than just some statistical bean counting exercise. A political vote is letting your voice be heard, even when you know that voice is completely in the minority and has no statistical ability of coming out on top. Your vote isn’t a “protest” vote, as some claim. It’s a vote that expresses a perspective. But our political process here in America isn’t about expressing a view – its about winning and losing, as the campaign for President Trump so eloquently put it in his first Presidential run. Over the past few decades, our politics has devolved from a sometimes tense and terse national conversation on how to govern to angry, thinly veiled insults hurled at one side or the other. Its not about governance. Its strictly about winning and losing. And, has been the case decade after decade, our political perspective has spilled over into our everyday social lives. Are you a Trump supporter? Get off my Facebook feed. Better yet, I’ll block you. Us and them. The division goes deeper than neighborhoods where people of certain income brackets live. It goes deeper than an individual’s skin color. Or one’s religious beliefs. Yes, really. Religious beliefs. Check out the Sundays, when people of one faith go to the little (sometimes not so little) building to pray together. And then race the people of the other faiths to the local restaurants to eat with their families. Yep, the Southern Baptists are making a run for the local sit-down restaurant to fill the tables before the Catholics get there. ::smacking forehead:: What the fuck people?

As the meme goes: I’m not competing with anyone. I hope we all make it. When an emergency happens and someone needs assistance, I’m not going to start out by asking what political party they are part of. I’m not going to ask them for their COVID-19 vaccination card. I’m not going to ask what God they pray to. I’m not going to determine how much help I am going to give them based on their skin color or what clothing they are wearing. I’m going to help them to the best of my ability. Because I want all of us to make it. I want all of us to survive. My Druidry DEMANDS this of me.

Grant, O Gods, Thy Protection;
And in protection, strength;
And in strength, understanding;
And in understanding, knowledge;
And in knowledge, the knowledge of justice;
And in the knowledge of justice, the love of it;
And in that love, the love of all existences;
And in the love of all existences, the love of the Gods, and all goodness.

https://druidry.org/druid-way/teaching-and-practice/druid-prayer-devotion

EXCEPT, if the individual is a Trump supporter. Right? EXCEPT, if the individual is a Right-wing Christian who wants to eradicate all others of belief that is not their own, right? EXCEPT, if the individual is the wrong skin color, right? EXCEPT, if the individual is left-handed, right? EXCEPT, if the individual is a ginger (red-head for those of you outside of Europe), right? We don’t help those people, right? We want everyone else to make it. But these folks…they can just right out lose. Because its ALL about winning and losing, right? Sorry, not in my way of thinking. And yes, I do realize that applying all of this in the way that I am doing is going to place me outside the realm “rightness” in the eyes of others. But my personal values place me here. Again, I’m not here to compete with anyone. I want us all to make it. Even those that may “hate” me.

Some may think I’m being “silly” or “unrealistic” about the way I approach this. Awesome. I have no mandate in my life or the way I approach my daily life that says that everyone MUST think or believe the way that I do. I do have a mandate in my life that says that this is the way that I believe. And I have to be true to myself. I’m tired of all the divisions that we, as a collective society, have created to separate ourselves from one another. Other can play that game. Me? I’ll be on the other side of this playground we call Life, sitting under the tree reading.

–Tommy /|\

Yes, I spend a lot of time reading – even when I go to the beach

Thinking About: The Essence of Druidry (For Me)

As I move throughout each day, each week, each month, each year – I do my best to follow the mantra that Mickey Hart of the Grateful Dead stated at the end of the last concert for the band directly to the audience in attendance: “The feeling we have here – remember it, take it home and do some good with it. I’ll leave you with this: Please be kind.” Those final shows, at Chicago’s Soldier Field July 3rd, 4th, and 5th in 2015, were billed as “Fare Thee Well: Celebrating 50 Years of the Grateful Dead.” Coincidentally, I celebrated my 50th birthday a few months later. I livestreamed the July 4th and 5th shows. Later on, I purchased the (HUGE) USB drive of “30 Trips Around the Sun” which is described as “shaped like a gold lightning bolt with the Grateful Dead 50th anniversary logo engraved on the side. The drive includes all of the music from the collection in both FLAC (96/24) and MP3 formats and is an individually numbered limited edition of 1,000 copies.” Its is, by far, the largest USB drive I have ever owned, easily larger than my hand in physical size.

Anyways, focusing on what Mickey stated at the concert, I have always tried my best to follow that mantra – to always be kind. A few years ago, Cat Treadwell provided me with a button that sits on the only makeshift altar that I have. The button states: “Kind But Badass”. It is a constant reminder that my daily life is the only face that some people may ever see of me. Just that one, momentary glimpse. That this one momentary glimpse, this single interaction might be the only chance that those individuals ever have to see someone that is kind to them. They may not see a smiling face for the rest of the day. That this single interaction may the highlight of what is a rather shitty day for them. Whether I like the idea or not, I may be the difference in their day.

I deflect a lot of concepts of positivity away from myself. You’ll read a lot of it here on the blog. I’m not a teacher. I’m not a Priest. I’m no one special. I’ve constantly drawn those perspectives around me, like a warm, comforting blanket that I can wrap around myself. I can wrap that around myself like armor and deflect the praise that I get from others. I do this because I really do believe that I am nobody special. In my reality, I’m just a Druid making his way along his own daily Path. I’m not here to revolutionize Pagan thought. I’m not here to be some Big Name Pagan (BNP) that thrives off the adulation of others. I’ve been to a handful of Pagan conventions over the years – never as a presenter. I’ve been recognized by seven people over those years. Seven total. I’ve never been invited to present at a single event. I don’t fool myself into thinking I’m big shit. I’m just me. No one else.

Nearly every interaction I have had with other Pagans has been cordial. Nearly every discussion I have had with other Pagans, I have tried to steer into how they are doing. Not how I am doing. I wanted them to tell their story. Most of mine is here in the blog. For other people to read. Most of it. Its easy for people to read what I’ve gone through. I want to know what they are going through. I want to hear what they are thinking. If we ever get back to having the conventions again if you encounter me at one and strike up a conversation – just realize that’s where I am going to steer you. If we ever get to the point of having conventions again. And if I ever become gainfully employed again – so I can pay for such things.

For me, everyday interactions are an integral part of my Druidry. Rituals, spellwork, whatever else you can come up with from the more occult aspects – that stuff is ancillary. My Druidry is driven by the interactions that I have. Not just with people. I interact with the plants and animals around me as well. A lot of people wonder if I am daft when I start talking to their pets. I do that to acknowledge their individual presence as well. I talk with small kids. Why? Because interaction is important. It acknowledges one’s presence, as well as placing importance on their moment in that place and time.

Then there are the folks that want to spend that time interacting by discussing politics. When that happens, I tend to shut down and become quiet. Why? Because politics is not about people. Its about political parties. I have no interest in that shit. I grok that there are people who are totally ate up by that crap. I’m just not one of those people. The kindest approach I can utilize there…to just stay quiet and wait to focus on something else with those folks. Should they insist on staying on the approach…I’ll find a moment to politely excuse myself from that discussion and move on.

There are those that will accuse me of not caring enough about others because I try to avoid conflict. That’s not true, however. I see someone being abused in some manner by another – I’m not one to keep quiet about that. I will intervene on someone’s behalf. But for the most part, I do try to mind my own business until a line gets crossed. What line is that? I’m not totally sure, but I know it when I encounter it.

See, Druidry is about interaction with me. Its about experiencing the world around me. That moment on a trail in the woods becomes more than just a place to walk. The sounds of the wind blowing through the leaves and limbs of the tree. The songs the birds sing as they flit from trees to the ground to the sky above. The quiet around me, as I spot a fawn deeper in the woods searching a meal of berries from a bush. Or the sounds of the cars and trucks on the interstate just a little over a mile from the house. Or the sounds of the construction workers building the three houses just on the other side of my backyard fence. Or the sound of Doro Pesch singing “All We Are” though the speakers of my headphones while I type this. All of that, along with the knowledge that if I place myself in the exact same spot, at the exact same time tomorrow…all of those sounds and moments will be there to experience. All so similar, and yet all so different because every moment is unique. All of that comes from a quote from the movie ‘Troy”:

The gods envy us. They envy us because we’re mortal, because any moment may be our last. Everything is more beautiful because we’re doomed. You will never be lovelier than you are now. We will never be here again.

Achilles

Druidry, for me, is all of that – and so much more. So many moments, so many experiences that I cannot put into words that would make sense to anyone but me. Each of those experiences circle the idea of being kind to others. Because those moments of kindness are some of the most joyful that we can share with others, especially strangers that we may only see once. In line at the grocery store. Walking on the sidewalk in town. Those encounters have so much more impact than we might realize. A smile. A heartfelt “hello.” Just a simple kindness. An experience, a momentary encounter. That single moment where we are the most beautiful that we will ever be in our lives. That, for me, is the essence of my Druidry.

–Tommy /|\

Howling Into the Wind: Group v. Solo

Over the past few months, I have read several bloggers talking about where our modern-day Spirituality is headed: individual practice. Seemingly, there are more Pagans that are striding into their Spirituality alone. Without groups. Alone. Exploring and developing their Spiritual practices (I still dislike this phrasing) on their own. There is a lot of dislike and skepticism being placed on this individual process by Pagans that have long championed the group concept. Now before everyone gets completely ramped up into the whole argument of Solitary v. Group perspective, let’s take a step back.

I have been in both camps. I started out in the Group perspective. I learned the basic concepts, processes, and ritual elements while I was there. I have a lot of thanks and gratitude towards the people who helped me learn material and concepts that were foreign to me at the time. However, after eight years, I found myself needed to strike out on my own. Now, I am a part of a larger group (Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids), but my daily practice (::cringing:: There’s got to be a better term) is completely my own. Thankfully, OBOD understands that both aspects can be part of an individual’s Spiritual needs, and not be in conflict. So, there’s now hardcore friction between the points – at least not that I have encountered. However, I do have to acknowledge that my experiences may be the outlier.

Is it bad to be on your own with your own Spirituality? There are those that are in groups that will point out that self-propelled Spirituality can assist in building Pagans through “bad decisions” or “poor understanding of the basics.” There seems to be an even deeper concurrence that self-propelled Spirituality develops what is demeaningly referred to as “fluffy-bunny” Pagans. Essentially, these types of Pagans don’t add up to what others feel Pagans should be. These fluffy-bunny Pagans just don’t seem to be up to the required hardcore element that these others feel the lowest bar of Paganism should reach. Thus, these fluffy-bunny Pagans are met with an attitude of “children just playing at being Pagan.”

For many solo Pagans (::cringe:: an even more klutzy phrasing), striking out on your own removes you from what they feel is a “cloning process” that occurs within groups. Everyone does the same thing. Everyone dresses the same. Any step away from the ruling concept of processes, dress, etiquette, etc. etc. is met with disdain and risks perceived banishment. Be like everyone else or be removed. Thus, the solo Pagans strike out on their own, to feel more at ease with what they do. They are the “masters/mistresses” of their own Spiritual perspective. No one tells them what to do. Their battle cry is “freedom!” versus the constant chants of “conform!” from the other side.

Now, both of those descriptions are extreme perspectives. There is a lot of middle ground to be had, as well as a metric ton of overlap. But the two extremes are better at defining the major differences. As I’ve noted before, I have feet in both camps. So do a lot of other Pagan folk out there. So, trying to relay these differences gets very muddy unless you deal in extremes.

So, which is better? Where should the new Pagan stand for their starting point on their neophyte Path? Is this new Path of individualism within Pagan Spirituality going to fundamentally change Paganism as we know it? Are we standing on the precipice of a cliff that will potentially destroy the seriousness of Paganism?

Don’t shake your head and state that these questions seem silly. I’ve heard, and read, these very questions being set out for discussion. Which is better? Where should you start? Well, I can’t tell you that. I would encourage the neophyte Pagan to look into both camps and see which appeals to them. Neither is bad. All of it hinges on what works for the individual in question. So, I can’t really say I would have a definitive answer for you, the individual reading this. I know the answer for myself, but that’s not going to be helpful for anyone else. Your choice, your decision.

Now, I come to the more difficult aspect. Is this new rush towards solitary (ugh…another unhelpful descriptive) Spirituality going to water-down the Paganism we all know? Will this move destroy Paganism as we know it – essentially becoming a cocoon to a new Paganism that will evolve soon, and put all of our groups into a place of being unnecessary? Well, I would have to say no. This seemingly “new” move towards Solitary Spirituality isn’t new at all. I remember the 1980s, when I started into Paganism. Many of the people I encountered within Paganism were solo Pagans. Not of desire, but out of necessity. Groups of Pagans would tend to live closer together, thus making gathering easier. With not much available communication beyond one’s local area, the further you were from others, the more likely your Pagan practice was as a party of one. So I would posit that this “new” movement towards solo practice is more likely a cycle within Paganism itself. In the future, I would assume that there will be a push back towards being a part of a group rather than being on your own. Of course, I’m not a Sociologist, nor am I an expert on the Sociological aspects of the wider Pagan community. I’m merely making my own guess known publicly.

So, is our collective, modern-day Paganism going to change? Well, I can tell you that today’s Paganism is far different than the Paganism I started with in the 1980s. So, my answer would be “yes” – things will change. And it will change enough that I will likely not be able to recognize it if I could jump into a time machine and move forward a few decades. Our collective society changes. Our Paganism will change with it. For better or worse, it will happen. Knowing that, I find the “debate” of Solo Paganism v. Group Paganism to not have much relevance. Arguments can be made about which style is better, which style is “more appropriate.” In the end, it all falls to an individual choice. For me, I prefer my feet in both camps. My personal daily Paganism is Solo because it fits my approach to my Gods. My wider Paganism includes the Group element because I am still a part of my wider Pagan community. I am not always in synchronous agreement with my fellow Druids or Pagans. But that doesn’t exclude me from either respective grouping. It merely means that there is a difference of opinion and/or perspective.

Others will have a difference of opinion over all of this. Their difference is not wrong. Nor is mine. We merely see the world from a different vantage point around the fire. To place that concept into proper perspective, I offer this. Have four people sit directly opposite from one another on the line of a circle. Give them pen and paper. Then set a coke can directly in the middle. Ask them each to provide a description of what they see. They can only describe what they see. You will find that those diametrically across from one another will provide wildly different descriptions. Those next to one another will have many similarities in what they see. However, none of the descriptions will be the same. Yet they see the same coke can. Differences in perspective come from one’s vantage point. This is why I see validity in groups and in solo Spirituality. I’m not sure that this helps to explain where I am in this entire Group V. Solo argument, debate, difference…whatever you want to call it.

I cannot and will not tell people which option is better for them. You are your own individual. What appeals to you is what appeals to you. “Just be yourself” is about the best advice that I can give. Be true to you. For some, that can be frustrating to hear. I completely understand. But I am no Oracle. The only person that I truly have answers for is myself. I can offer advice, if asked. The weight of that advice…is up to you. But I would caution you against seeing me as some kind of “expert” with the “absolute” truth. I’m just me.

–Tommy /|\

Thinking About: Its Not Wrong, Its Just Wrong For Me

I’m not overly fond of Samhain and Beltane on the Wheel of the Year. Yep, you read that correctly. Beltane and Samhain are my least favorite times of the year. This has nothing to do with the darker side of Samhain. Likewise, it has nothing to do with the overtly sexual aspects of Beltane. These are the two perspectives that most people assume that I have issues in relation to the two celebrations. Rather, it has more to do with the baggage that so many folks seemingly carry into both celebrations.

For me, Summer Solstice is my favorite point on the Wheel. The height of Summer offers a moment where the gathering of people is something akin to a familial time. Of course, the same can be said about ANY point on the Wheel. Its more a consequence of the people that have gathered for that moment in time. Samhain and Beltane have slowly become the more public gatherings, or at least that’s what it seems to be. Thus, with loads more newcomers to the gathering, the atmosphere changes. Plus, Pagans are notoriously generous with alcohol, which seemingly gathers the frat-boy element – folks that are there for the free alcohol. Don’t try and talk me out of that point. I have seen it happen far too often over the last three decades to be dissuaded from it.

Now, before I get accused of being the stogy, crotchety old man who is trying to piss on everyone’s fun, let me point a few things out in my defense. Around the Gulf Coast Gatherings (OBOD), I’m known as a mischief-maker. Working with two Trickster Gods, one tends to find ways to provide a touch of chaos here and there – all in good fun. So long as no one gets hurt, everything is good. Should someone get hurt (emotionally, physically, etc etc), all the play stops, and serious moments of apology and accepting responsibility for going too far will happen. This is me. But despite all of the playfulness, there are always two things that I try to keep at the forefront during such gatherings (public or private): the ritual is a serious moment, and we are gathered together as a form of extended family. Connecting with others is paramount.

Perhaps, as I look back over what I have written, the issues are just my own. Perhaps the baggage that is carried into this comes solely from me. In fact, I would posit that this is precisely true in both cases. After all, I’m the jack-ass writing this blog post, right? Sure, I’ll cop to that pair of points. What I have written here is my own perspective. Its my opinion, and I am well aware that it is not a popular one – even before I stated it. For so many folks, these two points on the wheel are their quintessential aspects of their Paganism. Drawn to the “free love” and openness of caring and cherishing others, Beltane makes perfect sense to be that moment of revelry. Drawn to the darker nature of Pagan thought, Samhain provides that moment where folks can be far more open about their darker practices. I completely grok all of that. I just wish that both points on the Wheel were not regarded in a carnivalesque atmosphere by so many. But as I have acknowledged, this is probably just me.

An excellent point was made in the comments to a previous post. Perhaps, the reason for the overt boisterousness related to these two points comes from the baggage people bring from their Christian past. With its proximity to Easter, Beltane serves as a quick jab of two fingers into the eyes of a Christian past. Samhain showcases the embrace to the darker (and more shunned) aspects of Spirituality, thus jabbing two fingers into the eyes of Christianity again. Or, if the imagery is better, flying the bird to a Spiritual perspective that was forced onto the lives of others. That’s understandable, particularly in the earliest steps on one’s new Path. You want to turn and shout back: “This way is far better than the one I just left! The path suits my feet far better!” Trust me, I felt the same when I left a Catholic faith that had been ingrained into me through private schools from the 6th grade to my Senior year in high school. Catholicism was not a proper Path for me. My first steps into other Spiritual Paths was always punctuated with some statement that this new Path felt more comfortable than the previous one. I even felt that way when I started down my Pagan Path and made similar statements. My first High Priestess quietly made the comment to me that I would stop making such proclamations the further I trod my Path. That statement has definitely turned to truth, as I don’t see my current Path as being better or more superior to any other. The individual finds the relevance in the Path. The Path does not impart the same wisdom to every individual.

So, do I have issues with Beltane and Samhain? Or are my issues with the manner in which others approach these two particular points on the Wheel? Most likely, it’s a little of both. Which means that my dislike is more of a difference between how I approach these two seasonal points versus that of others. And that, can be perceived as wrong on my part. Its wrong for me to look upon the practices of others when it comes to how they approach their own Paganism. Its ok for me to dislike those approaches, but its not ok for me to call those approaches “wrong.” Instead, its far more appropriate for me to do what I have done in the past – step away from the carnivalesque atmosphere, and handle things on my own, for me. I strive to approach my Spirituality for the perspective of an individual. Painting with that brush onto others is not the approach I wish to take. So, I have to admit that I have been wrong in seeing the popular approaches to public ritual at Beltane and Samhain as something that should be seen as distasteful. Its not for me, that’s for sure. But its not for me to judge such approaches as wrong. Its just wrong….for me. Maybe, I am that crotchety old man yelling at the kids to get off my lawn. ::shrug::

–Tommy /|\

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Thinking About: Samhain, My Perspective

Well, the time of trick or treating is upon us. This year, the day falls on a weekend (A Sunday), so my local area communities have been shifting the time frame to tonight (Saturday). Plus, its not being called “Halloween” but carries colorful names such as ‘Trunk or Treat” or “Autumn Fest” or “Fall Fest”. Yeah, the right-wing Christian community has that typical knee-jerk reaction to this time of year. The Chick tracts start reappearing. The darker time of the Wheel is starting to approach. Which leads me to a small side thought…do we have to view the Year in terms of a Wheel? I’ll come back to that in another post soon.

Samhain is that time of the year where I take a deep dive into where I am at this point in my journey. I take stock in where everything has gone over the last year, look at what needs to be addressed for the coming year, and make my plans accordingly. For me, this time of year is about putting things back on course – navigational corrections, if you will allow me the descriptive.

The last year didn’t go well for me. COVID-19 played a huge role in driving me to avoding people as a whole. A huge life change turned out to be something completely different from what I envisioned. Another year being unemployed and working one-off gigs has placed a lot of the mundane life on shaky ground. Much of what I had hoped to accomplish was placed into the background for the time being. Thus, this time seems to be a good place to bring everything back into focus, re-group, and determine what needs to be handled and how.

Probably the best way I can describe what this time of the year is for me is to compare it to a Project Management overview meeting. I have done my share of these kinds of meetings in my professional life, particularly in the Air Force. Essentially, a Project Manager, who is responsible for a project’s forward progress towards completion, will have scheduled “update” sessions with team and shift leaders at certain points. The point is to have discussions about where each part of the project is at, what obstacles have been encountered, and what resources/assistance is needed to accomplish tasks. Not every project stays on track, and occasionally its necessary to nudge it back into the correct path. I have found this process to be very helpful, even in my daily existence. After all, none of us are perfect, and things don’t always go as planned.

Samhain is also about more than sitting down and re-planning the course of my daily existence. There is a point of comparison that I can make as well. How much have I changed over the year? Not physically, but mentally and spiritually. What I look at is where my mindset is at. Last year, I decided to make a more concentrated effort to place local, state, national, and world politics as far back as I possibly could. Politics has an effect on all of us, whether we want to believe it or not. Its important to keep up with what is going on, so we can be informed citizens. However, it doesn’t need to be something that swarms our every waking moment, unless we want it to do so. Me? Not so much. I hold a dim view of political parties, especially when their actions seem to be geared more towards their needs rather than those of the citizenry. So, I made the decision to step away from politics, and concentrate my daily time and effort on to other things that held a higher importance to my daily life. For the most part, I feel I have done far better than I have in the past. I spent far less time railing about the inefficiencies and delusion of people hood-winked by President Trump. I spent far more time reading, learning, and getting outside. I found my mental health felt far better than before. That’s one – somewhat extreme – example of what I have done in this process.

So, delving deeper into what this time of year means to me – rather than the process of it. Samhain is a point of acknowledging transformation that has occurred, and planning for future changes. The weather is getting colder, so staying indoors is becoming more and more commonplace. The time of the year is getting darker and darker as well, as the days shorten. The ability to turn inwards is much easier. The seeds of transformation will grow in these deeper, darker times. The need to turn inward is becoming more and more insistent. Thus, this process is logical for me. For others, some of this might not seem to be so.

I have always acknowledged that I don’t approach my Paganism or Druidry or Spirituality as others do. My mindset is my own. I don’t always travel the commonly traveled paths. I don’t see the points of the Year in the same manner as many others. So, some of what I write here will be at odds with what others feel or point out. Honestly, for me, I am more than “ok” with that. I have a different view than others. I also don’t make claims to have the “right” or “correct” view on Paganism, Druidry, or personal Spirituality. No one has to do a single part of those in the same manner as me. I don’t create holy writs or claim to be an authority on Druidry, Paganism, or Spirituality…except where it pertains to me. I know there are those that rail against people doing their Spirituality, Paganism or Druidry on their own. I’m not one of those people. I think that you can do your own thing in your own way, so long as you don’t claim to have the “absolute truth” that everyone else MUST follow. So, I just ask that you remember that what I write here is my own approach, not some “gospel truth” for the masses.

Samhain is also a good timeframe for gathering with others. Just because I do much of my personal Spirituality alone doesn’t mean I don’t like the company of others or eschew group ritual or workings. I’m a human being. I am a social creature. Plus, I enjoy the company of other people. I’m not some moody, Gollum-like creature that sits in the shadows grumbling to itself about its hatred of others. While I have my own reservations about the hardcore revelry of Samhain and Beltane (a blog post for another time in the near future), I do acknowledge that this is a good time to build up the reserves of social interaction that I need to get through my solo times. Honestly, this is one of the reasons I enjoy giving out candy to the trick or treaters. Not only do I get to see the excitement in the faces of the costumed kids, I also get a few moments to acknowledge the trailing parents who are escorting the little ghouls and goblins on their candy retrieval quest. Samhain is a great time for brief social interaction. Or if you are attending some kind of adult costume party…a much longer time frame of social interaction.

There are a lot of things that Samhain can be. For me, it’s a period of time that lets me take a few moments to nudge my desired approach to Life back onto the rails. For others, it’s a time to revel in spooky-themed interaction with others. For others, there are a larger collection of reasons and needs during this time of the year – some of which I cannot even imagine or come to think of. We’re all individuals. We all have different needs and desires. My idea of a spooky time is to put Mercyful Fate, Exodus, King Diamond, and Slayer on the headphones, turn off the lights, and light a single candle. Listening to the music, I look at the candle’s flame and let the music move me to thoughts that come to life in the candle’s background. For others, they may turn off the lights, light a few candles in the room, and watch a marathon of the Halloween movies back-to-back. The possibilities are completely endless. It all depends on the individuals involved and the desired activity. How you spend your Samhain is solely up to you. There is no wrong way to do so. Make it meaningful in the way you need it to be. Whatever and however that looks.

–Tommy /|\

Photo by Anugrah Lohiya on Pexels.com

Bad Poetry Thursday: The Coming Winds of Samhain

Today marks the return of Bad Poetry Thursday. For those that are somewhat new to this, these are non-rhymed poems that I write on various topics. None of what I write is stuff that has the markings of being published – beyond the blog. I’m not a great poet and I know it (don’t even get me started on this little rhyming aspect that’s been a running joke longer than the sun has risen and set). Apparently there are a few folks who like my poems, and everytime I stop doing these Bad Poems – I get a request to bring it back from the dead. So here it is….

.

The Coming Winds of Samhain

The winds blow harder today
Then the past few days have wrought
Heralding the constant push and pull of Autumn
Between cold and warm air masses

The call of Winter can be heard on the unseen waves
And seen on the hordes of dry, brown leaves
Rampaging through the yards and streets
Amid the coming voices of trick or treaters

I sit at my desk, sheltered from the elements
Thoughts falling towards a point of solitude
My desire to pull back within my own protections
For Samhain has arrived, again

So, as I usually do with these pieces of my pathetic prose (I’m utilizing a fashion of alliteration here, not being overly critical of myself) is provide a small explanation of my mind’s processes of the moment. I have alluded to my dislike of both Samhain and Beltane here in the blog posts. Its nothing to do with what each point on the Wheel means to me, but rather the super commercialization that seems to come with both celebrations on the Wheel. That doesn’t mean that I am talking about the consumer perspective that we are seeing as retailers are ramping up for the coming Yule holidays, but the super glee and hard emphasis that the Pagan community places on each point – often to the detriment of the other spokes of the Wheel. Me, the seemingly quintessential Libra, find the over emphasis to not be fitting to the balance of equal distance and perspective to the Wheel as a whole. Thus, my feelings lead me to a point of solitude, where I tend to shut out all the revelry and take a deep dive into my own personal Spirituality. These days, I am having those feelings of solitude again, but have promised myself (and others) that I wouldn’t go into my usual shutdown. ::twitch:: 🙂

–Tommy /|\

Thinking About: Just Being Me

What should I write on? My earlier effort on this turned into a bitchy tirade that I eventually abandoned. Looking out the window on the back-yard patio door, the sky is cloudy, and the threat of rain within the high humidity shows in the darkening grey. for all intents and purposes, its the perfect day to sit and sulk on woes and angst. I’m now into another year of being unemployed and seeking temporary one-off gigs. Yet, I sit here with a happy grin on my face. My mood is up-beat. Maybe its the morning coffee. Maybe its the fact that I am listening to REO Speedwagon’s “Hi infidelity” album – music that I associate with my early years of high school.

At fifty-six (Gods, I really am that old, huh?), I realize that the years ahead are far shorter in duration than the years in my wake. I’ve been on this Pagan path for almost four decades now. I’m far different than I was as the wide-eyed, naïve, neophyte that I was at the beginning. I’ve seen my share of in-fighting within the Pagan community. I survived the infamous “DFW Witch Wars” of the mid-1990s. At the beginning of my Pagan walk, I found myself in the middle of the scary times of the Satanic Panic of the 1980s, an “event” that seems to be making a comeback today within the Evangelical Christian community here in the United States. I cannot even begin to count the number of Pagans, Wiccans, Druids, Heathens, etc. etc. who have been a part of my life during that time and passed beyond for a variety of reasons. Somehow in all of that, I have managed to get three degrees, a Bachelor of Information Science, a Master of Information Systems Management, and a Master of Business Administration. I’ve been into and out of the United States Air Force, where I helped blaze a bit of the trail that the military Pagans of today walk. Through all of that, I still wonder what I need to do within the Pagan community.

I’ve mentioned – probably more frequently than many people care to hear – that I struggle with the perspective of being a Priest or even a casual reference to being an Elder within the Pagan community. However, whether I accept these descriptives as portraying who I am, there are others who do apply these to me. I cannot (and will not) control those perspectives in other people. While I might eschew these concepts in application towards me, the fact remains that some see me in these roles. Whether I want to accept it or not, being on this Path as long as I have will place me into these roles. Instead of pushing back against these, I can try to handle this in a different manner.

When I was in the Air Force and when I was promoted into the ranks of Non-Commissioned Officers (NCOs), I was provided with a mantle of responsibility that I always felt I was never really ready for. Part of my responsibilites was to supervise lower enlisted ranks in the discharge of their daily duties in the function of my duty section’s role within our Squadron and Air Wing. In essence, I was placed in charge of what needed to be done during my shift, and I was looked upon as the on-scene subject matter expert – even if I didn’t feel that I was any of that. Furthermore, I bristled at being referred to as “sir” by the lower ranks. As a matter of fact, I still despise being referred to in this manner. Despite my misgivings as being seen as a subject matter expert or being referred to in an approbatory manner, others (including commissioned Officers who were my superiors) saw me as being such and deserving of an affirmative perception.

So, whether I completely agree with the descriptives of Priest or Elder, there are aspects of these that others might place upon me – simply becuase I am where I am on this journey. Recently, I received an ordination with The Universal Life Church. Its not difficult. Its free. The purpose? Well, if I am needed to fulfill a function of being a Priest, I can do so. Like I said, whether I agree with the idea that I am a Priest – I am such. With the ordination, I can legally fulfill obligations if a more suitable individual is not available.

I am;however, other things as well. I am a Druid. Currently working through my Ovate lessons, but I am a Druid. Does that mean I wear white robes, climb ladders to cut mistletoe from trees with a sickle, and brew potions that provide other worldly strength to others? Well, I refuse to wear a white robe of any sort. While I grew up in the Air Force, many parts of that were spent living in the South-eastern United States. White robes are synonymous with the Ku Klux Klan. While I grok the usage of such robes within Druidry in Europe – and I also spent parts of my youth living there – I just cannot bring myself to wear a white robe. So, I can firmly push that part away from me, while I embrace my green cloak, black pants, tennis shoes, and Grateful Dead t-shirt as my ritual clothing. yeah, its not the most “mystical look” but then I’m going for comfort, not stage presence. Besides, I see ritual in a different light than as something that is meant for looks or to be “seen.” Ladders? No thanks. I have an irrational fear of heights. Besides, I like mistletoe to stay up in the trees. Brewing? That’s like cooking, isn’t it? Trust me, you don’t want to eat my cooking. I’m registered as a lethal weapon, in that regard. 😉

My point here is that I don’t really fall into the stereotypical thoughts of what a Pagan or a Druid is. But then, I think the stereotypical representation of a Pagan, Witch, or Druid from the 1980s (my reference point) no longer applies in this day and age. We are all individuals in our own right. There are those who feel the need to have the pointy hats that have long been associated with Witches. Plus, the striped knee-length socks/hose, and the all-black clothing. Cool. If that makes them feel comfortable, that’s awesome. I’ve had folks look at me with derision over my ritual attire. Its taken a long time, but I essentially ignore those looks. How I approach my Paganism is important to me…that’s what matters.

I guess, in reading back through all of this, my thought process falls along the lines of being an individual. In the early footsteps of being on one’s Pagan path, you will find yourself walking in the footsteps of someone else. Some Pagan that you think is “cool” or “right” in their approach. Honestly, there’s nothing wrong with doing that. Its the easiest manner to find something that makes you feel like “you.” Black lipstick, eye shadow and a micro-miniskirt with four-inch heels makes you feel like “you.” Well, do it. A green cloak, a Grateful Dead t-shirt, jeans, and tennis shoes makes you feel more connected when you are in ritual? Do it. Not sure what to do? Try things. If it doesn’t work for you, abandon it, and try something else. Just remember, in the end – its about being yourself. Clothing, makeup, shoes, hair color…none of that makes you who you are – unless you want it to. For me, its about comfort. For you, it could be something completely different. Don’t let anyone tell you how to be you – even me. 🙂 Just remember, exploring yourself on this Path of Spirituality isn’t just about growing yourself – there’s also basking in the beauty of everything around us. And finding happiness in being who you are. You’re beautiful.

–Tommy /|\

Thinking About: Quitting

Her: Have you ever thought about quitting?

Me:  Gods, yes. At least twice a day.

What am I quitting? Well, you name it. Anything. Everything. I’ve had that feeling in anything I’ve ever done. Jobs, programs, SQL queries, people, even Druidry (which apparently I can’t spell since I’ve typed that six times now). I cannot count the number of times I’ve thought about just quitting writing this blog. I did the same thing over two podcasts. Eventually, I brought both of those to an end, not really quitting, but acknowledging that others were doing a far better job at it than I was. I doubt I ever bring the blog to a close. Unless I wind up with an injury that keeps me from publishing one. I enjoy writing this blog, even if not that many people read it. ::shrug:: I’ve had the worst thoughts too. Quitting life. Both happened at very deep depths in my life. Both are deep into my past. But yes, I have had thoughts of stopping my journey along the OBOD grades.

The first time I came across that feeling, I was in my seventh year in the Bardic grade. I was frustrated over the amount of time it was taking me to get through the lessons. My constant re-starting was forcing me to realize that I wasn’t quite “getting” it the way I had envisioned. Then, I went to my first OBOD camp – the Gulf Coast Gathering. The folks there were not only receptive to my doubts, but they were also helpful with tips of how to get past my doubts. “Don’t stop.” “Stop the restarting.” “Put yourself in a comfortable frame of mind before picking up a lesson. If you can’t get there – don’t do the lesson that day.” Susan Jones, the (then) tutor coordinator for OBOD, provided the best advice of all: “Asking for help is not a crime. No one is going to penalize you or look down on you for seeking help.” That one comment alone provided enough push to bring me back around to working through my lessons and getting through the grade. That bit of advice is what continues to push me through my Ovate lessons to this day, and not be self-disparaging over my slow progress.

The second time was just a short time ago. Less than a year. I kept asking myself what I was trying to accomplish by going through the OBOD grades. I didn’t really need the OBOD system to be the Druid I want to be. I didn’t need OBOD to be the Pagan that I am. Was it a sense of accomplishment that I was pushing for? Did I just want to be able to say I was a recognized Druid according to a Druid Order? Some kind of credential that proved my knowledge to everyone else, like my three degrees do to potential employers and professionals in my field? I have certifications that I can hang on my wall, along with those degrees, in my office. Am I proud of those accomplishments? Yes, I am. Fiercely so. I put in a lot of effort, time, sweat, and energy to get those. Is that why I am here on this Path within OBOD? Do I really need this? The answer, over time, is “Yes. Yes I do.” Not because it’s a box to check off. Not to have some honor that I can hang on the wall for others to see. That shit doesn’t matter. Its because I want to do this for me. I want the knowledge that I will get from taking the courses. I want to utilize that knowledge to be a better human being, a better Pagan, and hopefully be helpful to other Pagans on their respective Paths. To be there to cheer them on with their accomplishments, be there when they slip and skin their knees, to acknowledge what they have accomplished, and show them that someone cares about them. I don’t know if I will get that out of the entire OBOD grade experience and knowledge, but I know that my own trials tribulations, doubts, and getting beyond all of that to finish will provide me with a point of reference to help others.

I’m an independent person. Same holds true for my Pagan practice (Gods I hate that phrasing. It makes me sound like I’m a medical Doctor). I’m used to doing things on my own in my Spirituality. To paraphrase the Dennis Leary line from the movie ‘Demolition Man”: I do what I have to, sometimes other Pagans come along. Why would I want to help others, when my Spirituality is so pointedly aimed towards doing things by myself? Well, that goes back to my upbringing. My parents, who have long since passed, instilled that behavior into my sense of others. I’m not anyone special. Just your average, everyday human being trying to live life day at a time. Sometimes, its just one hour at a time. Or even one step at a time. But even through my own issues, I can stop, and take a moment or twelve for someone else. Being a Pagan that relies on a Solitary existence doesn’t mean that I have to be a hermit. Being a solo Pagan (that phrasing is even worse. It makes me feel like I should dress like Star Wars’ Han Solo), means that most of my Spiritual work is done alone, but I’m not going to shove everyone out of my life. Believe it or not, I do have friends. Don’t be shocked. I can be a prickly individual, but I’m not the Don Rickles of the Pagan world either.

So, yes, I do get the urge to quit from time to time. Everyone has those little doubt-gnomes that sit in their shoulders and whisper in their ear. I like gnomes as a better image than devils and angels. You could even substitute brownies (the critters, not the pre-Girl Scout kids) for those shoulder weasels. Or whatever imagery works for you. But you hear the words. “You’re not good enough.” “Those people aren’t going to like you.” “You’re a failure at everything.” “Why even try? You know you’re going to fail.” Yep, I hear those all the time. My method of dealing with them is to stop, take a deep breath, and remember – I am worthy. People out there do care about me. If I were to shuffle off this mortal coil, there are people who would miss me. I am capable of doing whatever I put my mind to. It might not look pretty, but it will get completed. Its never a shameful thing to ask for help. In fact, it’s the bravest thing you can do.

So, if you get those feelings that its time to quit, just stop. Trust me, I have been there. Quitting means giving in to what others might think of you. They may have already made up their mind that you weren’t going to make it. Well, fly them the finger, get back up, and finish. Just to spite them. Because you can do it. I, for one, am in your corner. If you ever need an ear to bend…just write me. elfster@gmail.com I might not get back to you immediately, after all I have my own stuff to get through. But I will answer. Don’t ask for money though. I’m far more skint han you. I promise you that. LOL

–Tommy /|\

Back when my hair was longer….

We Are Different, But We Are All Connected

Connections, connections, connections. If you hang around me for any length of time, you will hear me talk about how important connections and connectivity are. When I was working at the college, I found that listening to other points of view helped me understand the work environment better. As I understood the environment better, I learned how to help others get the things that they wanted, which helped pave the way for the things I needed to get stuff done. Give and take. Speaking and listening. Yin and Yang.

All of that works great for the communicative aspect of connectivity, but what the connectivity with one’s environment outside of work? Like the woods? The prairie? The mountains? The ocean? The river valley? The ultra-right-wing Conservatives? Ok, I just heard your mind come to a screeching stop. Connection isn’t about trying to add THOSE people into our reality, right?

Well, actually it is. Because they live here, too. But let’s remember something – this isn’t about politics. This is about connection.

Currently, I am reading Kristoffer Hughes’ book “Natural Druidry”. In the foreword, Kristoffer makes the following point:

Connection, connection, connection. You may well tire of seeing this word leap out at you paragraph after paragraph, yet in my view it is the lack of connection which fragments our society and facilitated man’s fall into unconsciousness and apathy. We have forgotten the importance of the interconnectedness of life, and as a consequence have become lost in the illusion that density fabricates, creating a deep sleep that fell upon the people of the earth, each individual believing themselves to be separate from the sentiency of the earth and her creatures, a state which I refer to as the forgetfulness of life. Druidry evokes within us a memory, forgetfulness is a temporary state, it merely requires something to stir that memory within us and allow it to filter through, imbuing in us a sense of “Oh yeah!!! I remember!”

Kristoffer Hughes, “Natural Druidry”

We all live on this floating rock in space together. We have segmented ourselves into categories – into small, personally described tribes, if you will. Conservatives, Liberals. Whites, Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, Christians, Pagans, Wiccans, Druids, Witches, Heathens, Blondes, Brunettes, green-eyes, blue-eyes, civilian, military, college educated, high school dropouts, tall people, short people. We have found so many ways to divide ourselves. But when we look at the aspect of connectivity, it will boils back to one point: we are all denizens of this planet. All of us. Human, plant, insect, mineral. We are all here together.

We have different ideas of how we should be governed. We disagree strongly enough to fight wars to determine what’s right or wrong about that. We divide ourselves. We search for the “right” or “wrong” of a situation, and then agree that the difference is enough to wipe out those that believe differently. Yet, as Kristoffer points out, we’ve forgotten that we are all here, together. Not apart.

How do we achieve that cohesive aspect of remembering that we are all connected? How do we collectively awaken from that deep slumber? Well, to be honest, its an up-hill struggle. There’s not a gentle slope that we can walk to achieve the apex once again. We’re probably looking at a slope that is more akin to a sheer cliff face. Moving up it to achieve that point of apex is going to take a lot of effort. It looks impossible. And it will be, if we don’t try.

For me, my first step is in writing this. The second step is in finding a way to live this. We are all connected. All of us. People, insects, animals, minerals. When we remove something or someone from the equation, we alter the future. When we divide ourselves into smaller tribal groups, we found cohesive thought with those that think and believe the way that we do. There’s a feeling of strength and belonging in all of that. We feel that we are heard. That we are seen. All at the expense of others that are different. But that is all right, so long as we don’t remove others permanently from a cohesive future on this planet.

We can think differently. We can all believe differently. We can all be different. We can do that without trying to make the rest of the planet the same way. Our differences unite us far more greatly than we are divided. We are all a part of the future.

So, what does all this have to do with connectivity? How does all of this manifest in the feeling I get when I walk through a forest, where the trees and the environment make me feel alive again? Or when I walk through a late summer field of corn, the height of the stalks blocking out the modern aspects of the city from my sight, allowing me to forget the daily grind of a modern world? Or when I sit on a park bench in an idyllic park set in the midst of a concrete and steel jungle of sky-piercing buildings? Well, as I pointed out before we are all here. Our collective future grows because we survive on. Its not just our ideas that manifest the future. Its us. All of us. The molecules that are us are here. Every choice we make moves us all collective forward. There’s literally no way to determine how each choice shapes and formulates the future. Cheetos or Lay’s Onion-flavored chips with your Subway sandwich for lunch? Coffee or a soda with that meal? What happens if you choose one over the other? How does the future get re-shaped with your choice? What if you chose the other instead? Who knows?

Scientifically, I cannot prove any of what I posit here. Just as I cannot prove other aspects of things that I believe, such as reincarnation. But these are beliefs that I hold. I still hold that our futures are what they are because we are here. We are all connected together. Removing pieces from that connectivity, just because we are different, doesn’t make the future better or worse. But it does alter the future irreversibly. How? I cannot really say.

Is there a horrible future coming that is dark and foreboding? Certainly. There’s always a chance of that happening. But it doesn’t have to be. We can alter that with our actions, our thoughts, our interactions with everyone and everything else. We can live in an environment of today, where we predict doom and destruction with every breath we exhale. Focusing on that, well, it probably makes it more likely. Expend energy on something you believe, and you are likely to make it manifest. But that’s a thought for another time, eh? 😊

My long, rambly point? Well, its simple. We are all connected together. Wishing away those that are different than ourselves, understandable. Not a good outcome, since getting everyone to believe exactly as we do winds up becoming the worst aspects of “group-think”. Plus, society gets dull with the same everything. I like diversity. Things get interesting when that happens. Plus, a different perspective allows for more chances to learn, more chances to grow. That happens when we acknowledge our connected nature. We are different, but we are all connected. 😊 I hope that some aspect of this made some kind of sense….

–Tommy /|\

Thinking About: Being Here Versus Tomorrow

The “spooky” season of the Wheel is right around the corner. Some would argue that its already here. Me? I’m not much of a horror film fan, so the “spooky” side of Samhain doesn’t appeal very much to me. (Sorry to disappoint those of you that really get into that stuff) This time of year is usually the start of the deep dive that I take into my personal Spirituality. Where I eventually surface, I never know. So, I have no idea where things are going to eventually take me.

Many times, in the past, this time of year has brought about questions of the future. Where are things going? What will Paganism look like in the near term? What about the far-flung future? What contribution will I have made towards the future? How will I have shaped the future? How am I shaping the present?

All of this presents an aspect of heady thought, much of which can be reduced to a single perspective: am I really THAT important? I tend to shrug off the idea that I have any true importance in the wider Pagan community. I have no desire or motivation to be considered as a motivational aspect of Pagans, or even Druids. I’m not trying to shape Druidry or Paganism into something that I believe it should become. I’m not arrogant enough to believe that I am someone who has the answers for anyone, other than myself. My Path is aimed towards trying to do better by myself by trying to be the best individual that I can be.

I write the blog. Its never been for me or even about me. Instead, my (hopeful) focus has been to provide advice to those that read it. Whether that be now or sometime into the recesses of the future. In a manner of speaking, I’m trying to be a narrative history of what Paganism, and Druidry mean to me. Perhaps, someone will find some synchrony in what I write with their own Path. That what I leave behind will turn on that light in their own thinking, providing them with an easier direction in adding to their own lives.

I write my journals. Each day, I spend a few moments at the end to surmise what’s happened, as well as what’s on my mind. In many moments of synchrony, what I write in the blog tends to mirror what I wrote in my journal. After all, what’s on my mind is what’s on my mind. 😊 Should my journals somehow survive beyond…maybe someone gets something out of those as well. Perhaps a future ancestor. Who knows?

Perhaps, what I consider to be the biggest imprint that I can leave behind for the future is the interactions that I have with others. Whatever my lasting imprint will be with those people, will likely be the legacy I am remembered for. For some folks, there will be a happiness that is my imprint. For others, my imprint will be one of disappointment or anger. Look, I’m not fooling myself into thinking that everything I’ve ever done is “good”, “happy” shit. I’m no choirboy. However, considering this time of COVID, with enforced solitude, those lasting impressions are not done face-to-face as much. Rather its managed through video conference, and more so through written communication. But its there, for better or worse.

Am I THAT important? Do the things I do help to shape and reshape Paganism within this day and age? I would posit that the answer is yes. Not just for me, but for everyone out there. Everyone supplies the change and reshaping of Paganism as we continue to move forward into our future. You might think that you don’t, but you do. We all do. Because we’re living it every single day with everything that you do.

Paganism, for better or worse, is moving into a realm where the individual is becoming more and more important. As an individual that does not work in groups, this move only feels “natural” to me. For those that are wedded to groups being the be-all, end-all – it can be construed as a disaster in their minds. The reality is probably closer to being cyclical, in the end. Somewhere in the Past, the practice of Paganism (or whatever alternative descriptive there may have been for it) was more likely done in solitude and secret. I have no proof for that statement, only supposition on my part. However, looking at where things are in today’s modern Paganism, I would posit that this move to a more grounded, individual practice comes from that potential cycle.

The reality is that this potential cyclical change doesn’t matter. What matters if what you believe, what’s in your heart, how you connect to environment around you. What you call it, doesn’t matter. How you do it, doesn’t matter. What matters is that you do it.

Yes, I do wonder about the future of our collective modern Paganism. I do wonder what all of this will look like in ten or twenty years. I do wonder what effect I will have had on that future Paganism. No matter how small or insignificant. What would it be? What shape will it have taken? What I realize is that it really doesn’t matter what effect I will have had on the future Paganism. What matters is how I effect my own approach on Paganism within myself. The shape that my effect will take is in the shape of myself. A shape that may physically disappear over time, but it will have been here. It will have provided the energy that I put into my practice. It will be supplied by my own motivation and drive. Because I am here.

Paganism, in whatever form it has been, currently is, or will eventually come to be – happens because of each of us. Each new Pagan, the passing of our Elders and those before their time, our explorations into new experiences, new environments…all of that continually shapes and reshapes our collective Paganism. Wiccans, Druids, Witches, Heathens, Love-and-Light Pagans, and so many more make up the multi-colored quilt that we are. We keep adding patches and pieces, creating something unique and cherished. That’s what the future will be…what we make of it. What we add to it.

–Tommy /|\

Photo by Noelle Otto on Pexels.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Tommy /|\

Thinking About: Having Fun and Interacting (My Perspective)

In my last post, Howling Into the Wind: Change, Communication, Respect, I was reminded of something that I don’t talk about much on the blog – but should. Well, actually a few things, but I wanted to address this point at the forefront. A reader of the blog, jswhite, noted that the wider Pagan community could use more playfulness. That notation is a lot more important than you may first realize, at least from where I sit – here behind this keyboard.

A lot of the blog tends to fall in the realm of what I would call “navel gazing.” This is what is described as “self-indulgent or excessive contemplation of oneself or a single issue, at the expense of a wider view.” I can be accused of this perspective on quite a few occasions. Let’s face it, I can only show you my own perspective here. After all, it’s the only viewpoint that I can discuss as a subject-matter expert. I know me better than I know anyone else’s perspective. Talking about how someone else might feel would be arrogant of me, wouldn’t it? Most of the stuff I talk about tends to be around approaching topics from a Pagan perspective or how I do (or don’t do) certain things related to my Spiritual practice. But what about having fun??

At fifty-six, I’m not as active playing sports as I used to be. My ancient body just can’t take the physical beating I used to, plus I am not as healthy as I used to be. However, I still throw a good game of darts or play an average game of pool (or even snooker – though it has been an uber-long time since I have done that). Not that long ago, I was part of a bowling league. Again, I’m no pro, but I did enjoy throwing three games once a week with friends. Here in Hillsboro, Texas, a small town, there’s not a whole lot of Pagans around (I’m the only one that I am aware of) to do things like this on a weekend afternoon or evening, but it certainly would be fun to do. Way back in the day, as I said before – when I was healthier and far spryer – I played soccer, and softball in local leagues. For me it wasn’t about winning or losing, but about being around other people, and having fun. I’m far more competitive when it comes to darts, pool, and snooker. 😊

When I am in OBOD camps, I’m typically a trickster. In the Gulf Coast camp, which is held near the edges of Lake Pontchartrain, just outside of Mandeville (directly opposite of New Orleans on the lake), I’m always trying to find ways to get folks to laugh and joke around. In the little pond nearby, there are alligators (could be crocodiles – I never learned the difference). One OBOD member, I teased about dangling them over the edge of the dock to attract the little swimming, meat-eating lizards. A nickname of “Gator Bait” soon ensued. I get teased plenty in camp as well. There’s no bad intent though. All of it is good fun. The point being that the camp is not all about being super serious. The workshop schedule ALWAYS goes wonky, but most folks don’t worry over that too much. We all get the chance to enjoy one another’s company. While the workshops provide a serious side (for the most part), the shenanigans that occur balance things out, and help provide the closeness of the tight-knit family we have all become over time.

What else do I do for fun? Well, it’s not always for fun, but I read – as I suspect most folks do as well. In fact, reading is one of the major things I have noticed that most Pagans have in common. That, and TV show and movie binging. It’s a great way of doing something you love that can also provide you the chance to be close with someone in your life. Ever read together on the couch? Or cuddled together to binge a season (or two) of a TV show that you enjoy? For me, there’s nothing like it. You can even combine a few things into all of that. Like reading while someone else plays video games – and snuggle up on the couch or even the floor. Or if you feel like being super silly, making a pillow fort in the living room. Whatever works for you.

See, a personal philosophy of mine is that Life is meant to be utilized to better yourself. There is certainly a time for seriousness in our Paganism (shared or not). However, there is also a time for play. A time to set all the seriousness aside and do things that allow us to blow off steam and reset ourselves. This is what a game of darts, pool, or snooker in a pub does for me. I’m not a heavy drinker, so I can nurse a single beer a really long time. But its not about the beer or the game of whatever – its about the company. Spending the time together to get to know one another better. We can talk about anything. We can even spend the time philosophizing between shots or throws. We can even try to solve the world’s problems between games if you want to turn to a more serious side. But the key is interaction. That’s the key in all of this. Interacting.

Writing and thinking about all of this makes me wish for more Pagans near me. To have others with a like mind, who would enjoy getting together to relax, have fun, and interact…about whatever. One day, I’ll find that again. I’ll have a whole new group of Pagans to interact with. In the meantime, I stick to my walks, my music, and my books. And my online friends. We may be physically parted by such geographically significant features such as oceans, but that doesn’t negate the closeness we feel for one another. Because we interact. Again, that’s the key.

–Tommy /|\

I read to learn and to be informed, but I also read to have fun, and take a break from everyday reality too.

Howling Into the Wind: Change, Communication, Respect

Yesterday, I found a question that was asked of individuals that I believe might be beneficial to ask in a wider public forum.

Name something about the Occult Community you would like to see change…

As you can imagine, a wide-open question like this invites a lot of different angles and perspectives. My response:

Well, it sounds rather basic – but just be yourself. I don’t play any kind of gate-keeping role in what Pagans of any stripe should or should not be doing, that includes what one needs to be doing within the wider community. I think it’s more important to individual Spirituality to find one’s own self and utilize that as an anchor to avoid becoming some kind of “Pagan clone”. If we stay authentic to ourselves and to our wider Community, we avoid a lot of the “artificial” perspectives that arrive when we start looking at others doing their own thing and saying that their approach is “wrong” or ‘New Agey”. Everyone has their own path to walk, and we should avoid trying to play up the idea that any other walk than our own is incorrect, incomplete, or inaccurate. Diversity in Paths, Approaches, and Perspectives are a strength, in my opinion.

Tommy /|\

Not precisely earth-shattering stuff, right? Nothing that I haven’t written about before on the blog. Nothing radically different from stuff that I have talked about face-to-face with others. Nothing that others have not disagreed with me on before either. But its not my answer I want to write about here. It’s the writing prompt.

As I’ve noted often, at the risk of being ad nauseam about it, I have been on my Pagan Path for three and a half decades. In that time, I have watched the ebb and flow of the Pagan community. When I started, digital communications, such as the internet did not exist. Much of long-distance communications were done through personal letters or via dial-in Bulletin Board Systems (BBSs). You can imagine (and some of you don’t have to imagine – you lived it, just as I did) the Community was largely dependent on the cohesiveness of various local individuals. Over time, digital communications expanded into what we know and utilize today. That expansive communications ability has been helpful to so many on their own individual Paths, and has not only widened our knowledge base, but allowed for a lot more cohesive research on those perspectives by so many. Our wider Pagan community has not only grown by leaps and bounds, but we have found more ways to help one another along our respective Paths.

However, from time to time, there is always a need to step back and take stock of what has been done, what is being done, and where things are going. Questions such as the one noted above, are typically the start of such endeavors. Like I noted, I have been around a long time. My direct participation in the Pagan community has also ebbed and flowed during that time. I would never hold myself up as a paragon of virtue in being a part of the community. I am aware of most of my faults and missteps. However, despite all of that, I am a part of the wider community, even if I wanted to deny that point. Whether I like it or not, I am a part of the Pagan community. So, what I answered above is not a judgment of the community or a damnation of what is lacking within the community. What I answered was merely an observation, nothing more. My prescription for it – also within my answer – is only my perception of what needs to be done. I am not the Pagan with all the answers. Furthermore, I can only correct my faults and missteps. I cannot and will not be responsible for changing the behaviors and attitudes of others.

Should the Pagan community be taking stock of where things are, and be looking for what change can be done? Well, my answer would be “yes.” But I am a single individual. I am not the Pagan Pope. And if you dig hard enough, you may find a few claiming to be such, somewhere on the internet. But I am all for self-examination. Within my own professional career, this type of perspective is an ideal thing. Within any Information Technology project, there is a period after the project has been completed, and the results set into motion, where self-examination happens. Within the realm of Project Management, this is called a “post-mortem” process. In Latin, the term means “after death,” essentially an autopsy. What you are essentially doing is checking how things went. You look for places where things went wrong, and how things were resolved on the fly. You are looking for ways to do it better the next time. Honestly, I do this after I make changes to my own personal ritual processes. Because I am always looking for where the kinks were, what worked, and what didn’t. That way I can change things and try my best to make my ritual process work better and have a better impact on what I was trying to do. It’s a process I use when writing code within my professional career. It’s a manner of getting better at what I do – learning new code, learning new syntax – just getting better. After all, there’s always room for improvement. Always.

The hard part about doing this in wider community setting, is that this only works on areas of commonality. Believe me, all of that is hard to locate – we are a wide, diverse community that is full of contradictory perspectives. However, there is one aspect that we can all agree upon (hopefully). That is respect of other spiritual perspectives. Even those that are in diametrical opposition to our own. I believe that this is the point that we need to take time to check and re-check ourselves on.

I was wondering aloud about what direction the wider community could take without this re-check process. Well, I hate to bring this into the point, but without checking and re-checking our aspect of respect for other perspectives, particularly those in opposition to our own – our future as a wider community might potentially look a lot like those in American politics, at this moment. Where the Right/Conservative, and Left/Liberal perspectives become so divided, that commonality cannot be achieved. Simply because we dig into our perspective perspectives, and demand that ours is the only, true way. That the other perspective is just wrong. When our entrenched attitudes will develop feelings or hatred, betrayal, and bring about enforcement of our belief over all others. The middle ground recedes to nothing. Compromise can never be achieved in such an environment. Entrenchment gets deeper and deeper. The result will be a civil war of proportions that are unimaginable. All because we lose respect for the other side. Where matters go after that civil war is an unknown that I do not want to even approach.

You might not agree with my assessment. I can grok that. (For those of who have not read Robert Heinlein’s works – “grok” simply means to empathize or communicate sympathetically – or if you prefer “I get you”) Right now, I would surmise that my logical progression to this point, is a wild guess-timation. I certainly hope that I am completely wrong.

Circling back to the original question, what would I – me, Tommy – like to see change within the wider Pagan community? Aside from what I have already written in response? Well, we have the tools to do so. I would like to see us talk with each other. Not talk AT each other. But that’s a conversation for another time, and probably for a better setting than a blog. I really wish we could all gather round a fire on a nice, clear night. Everyone with a nice beverage of choice. We will probably never solve all of the world’s problems, but there certainly is something to be said for the civility o face-to-face communication over that of hiding behind an IP address. #JustSayin’

–Tommy /|\