Thinking About: What to Do When You Lose the Path – Keep Walking

Over the weekend, I wrote about some of the differences in knowing your Path and walking your Path. Apparently, it resonated with a lot of people, since I got a few comments and questions on it. I’m always happy when something I write about resonates with people, not for the clicks on the blog post (I don’t pay attention to the stats that much), but because it provides some food for thought for others. Or it may provide a moment of synchronicity to confirm thoughts and perspectives that they have been mulling over, essentially providing that spark of Awen that they needed to move forward on their own Path. That stuff makes me extremely happy. I like when people feel that moment…they always provide a hint of radiance for that extra little nudge.

One really awesome thing that comes from these blog posts are questions, which further everything into something akin to a linear discussion. That’s where today’s blog post is going. I got asked what I believe is an interesting follow-on to the weekend’s blog post:

What happens when you lose the Path? How do you find the Path again?

To be openly honest, I’ve only been asked this once or twice in my entire time on my own Pagan Path. However, I have some personal experience I can relay that might (I emphasize might) be helpful.

When I was in the Air Force, I was originally stationed at Carswell Air Force Base in Fort Worth, Texas. I was still learning about the myriad of directions I had available to me within Paganism. The Wiccan coven that I was part of was a ninety-minute drive one way. Plus, their gatherings on the weekends usually collided with my workdays. I worked twelve-to-fourteen-hour days or nights, depending on my shift, on the weekends. So, my face-to-face time was somewhat limited. To provide a more consistent method of contact, the High Priest and High Priestess created a spot on the electronic Bulletin Board System where I could gather materials for the classes I missed – so I could keep up. In 1990 (still in my Rainbow year), I was deployed overseas to Germany. The change in my permanent duty station was a culture shock for me, particularly in my studies within Wicca. The Pagans I encountered there were all solo individuals. No covens or groups for study. The group that I helped to found in Kaiserslautern was more a social gathering of like-minded individuals. The rituals that I did attend were mostly flat with group energy, since we were all unfamiliar with one another. The only real connection I had to Paganism was through Circle Sanctuary and their monthly newsletter that I received via US Post.

I felt more “at home” with my habitual long walks in the forests around Kaiserslautern than I did anywhere else. The three years I spent there felt like complete desolation. What little I knew of being a Pagan felt small, unfinished, and somewhat empty. To put it in a different light, it felt like I had been walking along a well-worn trail in the forest when I was in the States and in constant communication with that coven of folks. When I made it to Germany, it felt like the trail had slowly disappeared under my feet. Like those who had gone before had walked to a certain point, and then turned back. The well-worn Path slowly disappeared until I found myself alone in a deep, dark forest, surrounded by trees that had grown very close together. Under my feet, there was no longer the worn trace of path, but a wide expanse of dried, fallen Pine needles. Going forward meant walking where there was no Path. Going backwards meant trying to find a trail that had dissipated so far behind me that I wasn’t sure of being able to successfully trace my way back.

I’m not sure if any of you has ever been lost in the forest or in a wide-open, unpopulated area in the country. Not knowing which way to go can be a very scary proposition. This was the feeling I had on my Path back in 1994. I was in Germany, connected only with Pagans who felt just as lost as I did. Our safety lines back home was limited to letters or the occasional (and very expensive) long distance call home. For me, contact with my former coven was limited. That feeling of isolation was immense. Being new (relatively – I had been on my Path for less then six years…calculating in my head….more like less than five) I wasn’t sure of my footing or direction in what I was to do. In the three years I was in Germany, I purchased about ten books on Wicca and Paganism. I tried to follow what these books taught, but I was unsure of what I was doing. When I finally departed the US military and came back to the States, I found so many things had changed in a little over a thousand days. My coven was gone, having disbanded and all of the members scattered to anonymity. The Dallas Witch Wars were coming to their end, with groups basically ignoring one another. I felt like my entire world had been destroyed and all I had left was pure desolation and the prospect of even more isolation.

I had moved away from the Dallas/Fort Worth metro-mess and headed across the border to Shreveport/Bossier City in the northwest corner of Louisiana. Back home to my parents. A few months later, I decided to look up my grandmother Priestess, who ran a Pagan store in Grand Prairie, Texas. A four-hour drive one way. When I walked into her store, she was behind the counter – just as I remembered her being back when I was stationed at Carswell. It took a few minutes of talking before she remembered me. We spent a few minutes catching up before she asked me what brought me in. I explained my feelings of being lost and isolated. Did all of that mean I wasn’t meant to be a Pagan? That Wicca wasn’t for me? She laughed, placed a hand on my arm, and started her perspective of me. “Wicca is probably not your Path, but Paganism is your vehicle. You need to spend some time exploring a bit more. You’ll find where you belong.” She handed me a copy of Margot Adler’s “Drawing Down the Moon” which I handed back. I already had a copy in my library. “Pick it back up. Reread it. You’ll find new directions to go.”

I followed that advice. I went back and reread the book. As I did, I started to see the various directions to go. I also realized that my Paganism was mine to live. I didn’t need the agreement or praise of another to know what I was doing was “right.” I just had to do it. If I had questions, there were others that I could seek out and drop questions to. But in the end, the “rightness” of what I was doing depended on me more than anyone else.

Don’t be fooled. The above paragraph took about another three years for me to slowly realize. It took even more time for me to find my footsteps bringing me back to Druidry. That’s right. Back. I had stood at the doorstep of Druidry very early in my Pagan Path and decided that it wasn’t really for me. It probably wasn’t back at that time, but it was when I found my footfalls approaching it again. That moment is about twelve years into my past now.

So, how to get back on your Path? What to do when you feel lost or isolated? Well, I’ll quote Winston Churchill here. “If you’re going through Hell, keep going.” Its fairly Christian in thought, but its useful (at least to me) when you’re going through a period of feeling lost or isolated. That feeling of desolation, in my opinion, is the epitome of the Christian myth of Hell. Some red-skinned dude with a forked tail and a pitchfork doesn’t scare me. But that feeling of being lost, alone, and having no direction…scares the shit out of me. But when you’re there – in that point of Hell – just keep walking. And if you’re lonely…reach out. I know how you feel. My door of communication is always open.

–Tommy /|\

Thinking About: Knowing the Path vs. Walking the Path

Its no secret that I enjoy the original trilogy of Matrix movies. For me, there’s a lot of symmetry in some of the lessons that the main character of Neo goes through, and my own life – particularly in the training sequences with Morpheus in the first movie. Neo struggles to adapt to his new world, to understand the rules of his environment – essentially re-learning how to be himself. Then comes the rescue sequence of Morpheus within the Matrix, and Neo suddenly starts to comprehend some of his abilities, enough to save Trinity from a crashing helicopter. Then Morpheus makes the statement that really brought it all together for Neo, and a statement that reminds me of my own place within this world that we all inhabit:

There is a difference between knowing the Path and walking the Path.

Morpheus, “The Matrix”

This one quote is, at least for me, a grounding mechanism. A singular statement that reminds me of where I belong. This keeps my feet firmly on the ground, precisely on the path where I belong.

Hopefully, none of that is confusing. If it is, let me explain a bit more in-depth. Some of this goes back to the conversations at that rarely used exit door at Bossier Parish Community College that I have mentioned in the last two posts. At that point, I had been on my Pagan Path for somewhere close to a decade. I felt like I knew enough to be a “wise” helper for other people stepping into their Paganism. I had that feeling that I was a guru that was placed there to help others through the minefield of starting on their Path. I was a pretentious little shit in ways I could never dream of. Looking back now, Gods, I felt like I knew it all. Of course, I didn’t even know enough to fill a thimble to the halfway point. Sitting in on those conversations, I was treated like I was the be-all, end-all of Paganism. It took another three years for me to realize that I knew nothing more than the singular corner I was living in. There was so much more to Paganism for me to learn about. More than I could ever fathom. Paganism was a wider, deeper ocean than the small, knee-deep pond I had been living within.

Now, nearly twenty-five years beyond that point, I’m a much different Pagan. I appreciate so much more of the world around me. As I watch this morning’s very cold sunrise from my desk, the world reminds me that there is so much more to experience. Each morning brings a new sunrise – unique, alive, and different from the previous days before it. Each new day affords a new experience for me to encounter. Some of it is like yesterday and the days before it, but if I look closer, I find those new experiences…those footfalls which breath new, fresh air into my day. And the above quote from the Matrix reminds me that my experiences and encounters will be different from everyone else’s. We’re all individuals who receive much the same input but process it in ways that no one else will. At least not the same.

Every so often, I get asked why I don’t write books. Well, I have no desire to be seen as an “ultimate guru.” Not by a single soul. I know my Path. I experience my Path daily. Knowing and experiencing my Path are different things. One is understanding where I am, who I am, what I can and cannot do. The other is actually living that Path. Experiencing things with each footfall. What I have learned is that a book cannot adequately explain either point to someone wanting to know and walk their Druidry, their Paganism, their Path. I’m not a healer. I’m not a Shaman. I’m nobody of any extra-ordinary ability. I’m not even a teacher. My Path is not meant to have me sitting at the top of mountain. Cross-legged, in a meditative state, waiting for acolytes and seekers to find me so that I can dispense arcane wisdom for their undivided attention. Rather, I’m here to live and experience the day in whatever fashion it presents itself to me. To see the sunrises. To experience the sunsets. To listen to the magick of music, just like I am listening to Tommy Shaw and Jack Blades marvelous album “Influences” right now.

Everyone experiences their own Path differently. We all came to our various paths in Paganism because we “knew” this was the right place for us to be. We know this path is meant for our feet, even if its just to explore it a short way to be sure that this “calling” is right for us. But to find that “rightness” of the Path, we must do more than just “know.” We must experience it. We must live it in the manner that makes sense to us, individually. Do you find that daily morning rituals bring strong meaning to you? Then do that. Do you find that pouring libations to a God or Goddess brings powerful, emotive feelings for you? Then do it. If you’re not sure, then continue doing those things until you are sure…even if its to be sure that it doesn’t work for you. You won’t know until you try. Knowing your Path is one thing. Walking your Path is that step beyond, where theory meets experience. I can’t tell you how it works. I can only tell you that you will never know until you experience it for yourself.

When I was in high school, my parents put me into Catholic schools. I had classes on the theological aspects of church teachings. In every class, I was at a disadvantage to my classmates. The vast majority of them were members of the Catholic faith. They had experienced many of the mysteries of church teaching. I only had the theory. When our school attended Catholic masses, once a month, I got to watch – first-hand – many of the things I had been taught in those classes. I got to witness the beauty of those liturgies, and these were beautiful expressions of their faith. I didn’t partake though. Even then, I knew my Path was not here. I also knew that experiencing the practices of this faith would be cold, empty exercises of rote expression. There was beauty in what was being done, but it was empty in the expression of the beauty of faith for me. I knew my Path. Walking the Path of their faith would provide no meaning to me. The difference between knowing one’s Path and walking one’s Path.

So many people walk a Path in the hopes of becoming someone well-known in that faith. A few actually do become that. Usually, they find a manner to express their faith in a manner that resonates with others. Writing books, giving presentations, expressing their joy through musical performances, creating art in many different fashions…but not everyone reaches those heights. Some become leaders of their groups. Some become teachers. Many don’t reach those heights either. Because of that, many question whether this was their Path to walk. Perhaps, the problem was in wanting to be seen, respected, and adored….for whatever reason. Not everyone is meant to be that in their Path. That doesn’t and shouldn’t diminish who you are in your Path. Living your chosen Path is about growing yourself in your Path.

Being a Pagan, for example, doesn’t mean that every day will be like a Dungeons and Dragons encounter. Or that it ever will. If that’s the way you are experiencing your Paganism, and it disappoints you…let me reiterate here. Your Path brings experiences and meaning to you. What those experiences mean, that’s for you to determine. The fact that none of it seems like a mystical encounter doesn’t diminish anything that you have experienced. Stop. Look at the sunrise or sunset right in front of you. Look around your neighborhood. See the children playing. Your neighbor doing their chores. The dogs barking at the squirrels who are chiding them from the top of the fence. All of that is here and now, in this moment. Find the beauty in what you are experiencing. Its great to be alive. Find ways to experience all of that as part of your Path.

Now, I am in no way telling you how to experience your own Path. Nor am I telling you how to do your Paganism. I’d be a fool to go back to that point in my first decade of Paganism and believe that I know everything. Not even here – thirty-five years into being a Pagan. I’m well aware that there is so much more to Paganism than my small drop of experience in that ocean. But even with those thirty-five years, I am no expert on your Path. Even if your Path is the same as mine: Pagan, Polytheist Druid in the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids. We will tread some of the same water, walk some of the same deer trods in the forest, drive some of the same highways…but we are individuals. We experience the same things, the same moments differently because we are individuals. That, in itself, is a comforting thought for me. Life is meant to be lived. Paganism is meant to be experienced. Those two sentences hint at the very reward that such a Life will provide.

–Tommy /|\

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Howling Into the Wind: When They Need an Ear…

Well, the first very cold weather of the year has made it down here in central Tejas. With sleet that lasted for somewhere close to twenty hours, the landscape of the backyard and beyond is coated completely white. It looks like snow, but its not. Just a nice covering of icy precipitation. All the snow was much further north in the Dallas/Fort Worth metro-mess and northward. No power outages, though the cold seeps in through the weather stripping on the windows and doors a bit. I’ve spent a large part of the day either curled up in the blankets with cats surrounding me or wandering through the house with my socks on (a rarity for me).

Last blog post, I added some background from the lunch-time discussion that I attended on a back door entry-point for Bossier Parish Community College, which was right next to Airline High School. I mentioned some of the discussions we had on intentional communities, as well as some more lengthy discussions that Alia and I had afterwards. As I noted in the post, Alia attended the college at the same time that I did. She was a Psychology student; I was a Computer Sciences student. I ran a computer lab for the college when I was not in class, and Alia would come and study for her classes there, since I managed to keep the lab quiet. It was also my refuge for doing my elaborate Pascal programs that went far beyond what my professor required for class assignments.

During a different lunch-time discussion, the focus fell on my Pagan beliefs juxtaposed against the predominant Christian beliefs in the Bossier City area, which was a distinct Southern Baptist flavor. I was asked why I didn’t hold animosity and anger towards the Christian beliefs, particularly since I was actively attacked by the more zealous members on campus. Most of the attacks were insults of a distinctively personal nature, or in a few cases where I had food or drink thrown on me. “Why don’t you report any of this?” Well, it was simple, at least for me. I didn’t want to draw any more attention to myself. Besides none of it was physically damaging to me, aside from clothes that would need to be washed. I learned back in high school that the easiest way to deal with a bully was to not provide them with any energy aimed towards them. After all, they were wanting a response, so they could escalate things. I provided no traction for that nonsense.

Now, some twenty-five years (or some) later, I see and hear a lot of animosity towards people of the Christian faith within Pagan groups. Mostly, it seems, this comes from people who recently moved from an aspect of the Christian faith to Paganism. The feel is that they have to find reasons to bad-mouth the Christians that they associate with, while lifting up the Pagans that they are now with as paragons of virtue. I know the entire routine. I’ve been there.

In the beginnings of my Pagan path, I was on such a “high” on finding a Spiritual Path that fit far better than the Abrahamic faiths I had searched through, there was nothing wrong with what I had found. It was paradise. Those other Paths? Those were poison, full of traitorous people who attack anything that they don’t understand and label those things as “evil” without looking beyond the differences. I had such a loathing for those types of people. And I was vocal about it. Vocal enough that the duty section I was part of in the Air Force forced me on to a shift with three independent, evangelical preachers – all of whom out-ranked me. I spent eight and twelve-hour shifts with these three individuals. They knew I was a Pagan, and I was treated as being nearly sub-human. No amount of complaining to higher ups was going to change things for me. So I learned to not engage with them except for work-related things.

All of that gave me a lot of time to reflect on how I had acted previously. On my days off, I sought out my High Priestess of the Wiccan coven where I was in my Rainbow year. Slowly, quietly, she started to show me that much of my anger wasn’t appropriate. That I needed to see the good in people before I went hunting for the bad. Could they see reason to leave belief alone and up to the individual? Could they practice the acts of kindness that the Jesus of the Bible did? Could they leave the condemnation of the sinner up to their God, and embrace the sinner as an individual to love and cherish, just as any other person? Could they emulate the kindness and sincerity of the Savior that they claimed to follow? If they couldn’t do any of those things, then it was best for me to back away as far as I could. In the case of the workplace, be professional with them, and keep subjects strictly confined to workplace related materials. Yes, that would suck, since everyone wishes to have cordial relationships with their co-workers, but sometimes that wouldn’t happen. I took those words to heart. I tried my best to live up to what she was telling me.

Later, I would be deployed to Germany. Here, I was featured, with other military Pagans in the European theater, in the Stars and Stripes article “Practicing Pagans.” One night, after I had finished a late-night shift, I went to check my mail at the Allied Post Office on the base. 2am in the morning. I was confronted by two individuals, one of whom threw me up against the wall of Post Office combination locks. If another individual had not entered the Allied Post Office to check their mail, I have no idea what else might have happened. I didn’t fight back. Not because I was outnumbered. Because I knew it was the wrong thing to do. If things had progressed, I have no idea what I might have done. I’m glad that I don’t know. I’m glad that I didn’t have to know.

There have been other incidents as well. But I don’t blame Christianity for what happened. I blame people who twist the words of their Savior to justify their violence. People are the problem, not the belief system. So, when I hear these newer Pagans firing off their anger at something they left behind – even when those reasons are violence, anger and abuse aimed at them – I think of when I was there, doing the same thing. I remember how I felt then. And I remember what it took for me to learn what I know and believe now. Telling others, just as I am doing here in this blog post, isn’t going to be enough to change people’s minds. They need time to heal, time to let the wounds scab over, for the bruises to yellow and fade. After that, perhaps, they will come to the same conclusion that I have. Its not the belief system that’s at fault. It’s the people twisting its teachings to excuse their inappropriate behaviors. Maybe, these Pagans will come to that conclusion. I simply don’t know if they will. Everyone reacts differently. All I can do is hope. And listen when they need an ear….

–Tommy /|\

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Once Upon A Hot Louisiana Summer Afternoon at College

We choose our own communities. Not that long ago, this was a comment made in a multi-voiced discussion that I was involved in. I never really appreciated the statement until the beginning of when COVID hit. All the mandates of separating everyone from one another led to a lot of isolation, but many have found inventive ways to regain some of that prized connectivity.

We were all sitting under an overhang at the far end of the building on the college campus. It was lunchtime, and we were all doing our normal lunch gathering. Outside the fire door, right where the college campus walkways tied to the walkways of the local high school that was next door. This side of the high school was inhabited by the school’s band, so there were no classes located here. That meant we could talk loudly and not worry about interrupting any classes. It also put us about forty-five or so feet from the temporary building that housed our Programming Logic class that started around 1pm. The overhang would shelter us from any rain or even the sun, which was our nemesis that afternoon.

Our discussions were always free-wheeling points on a wide variety of topics. Sometimes, we would wind up cussing at one another over our differences. Other times, our discussions felt more like examination and cross-examinations in a court of law. However, when the nearby high school alarm bells went off at 12:50, it signified the end of the high school’s lunch period and brought our wild charging sessions to an immediate end as we slammed back our orange juices, sodas, and bottled water while we cleaned up the remnants of the bagged meals we had all shuffled in with. Our little lunch-clutch was over.

As I noted, the comment that “we all choose our communities,” had been innocently flung into a contentious discussion on a hot northwest Louisiana afternoon. The discussion had been ignited with a point being made on polyamorous relationships. The back and forth over whether three (or more) people could maintain an adult relationship had its difficult merits. The concept of a traditional monogamous relationship was tossed in. Then the charges were leveled that being with more than one person was “cheating.” Having been part of a poly relationship previously, I noted that poly wasn’t for everyone, and didn’t work for every single relationship. The debate continued without much following my addition. In this format, I was always used to being run over by either side. Even then, I tried to find middle ground. How Libra of me. 😊 Eventually, the conversation started to be re-molded and altered as a perspective about being part of socially constructed community models could also be considered in the same mold. The conversation slid over on its side, bursting open like a tanker truck full of gasoline. Eventually the alarm bell at the high school rang, and everyone quietly picked up their part of the lunch detritus, and we all angled off to our classrooms. On our way to a Programming Logic class, our class goth, applying her shiny black lipstick around her lower lip-ring leaned against me while we walked, and uttered the phrase to me. “We’ll talk,” she winked at me as we reached the classroom steps.

We did talk later. We talked about how social constructs of groups can be equated to the archetypes we all have been programmed to believe. Goths always dress in black and are always interested in the BDSM lifestyle. Most likely not completely true, but it’s a construct that society places on those folks – fair or not. Programming geeks are always good at math, play computer games, and are always socially awkward. Again, another construct that society aims towards everyone. But what about those that don’t fit these constructs? What about those that choose to throw off the construct but continue to wear the “uniform” of the construct? My friend Alia had a point. Society places us into these neat containers without looking into the individual. Such an easy way to see society. These people fit this genre; thus, they also have these mannerisms.

Its easier to deal with people when they fit into these tight descriptives. We don’t have to take the time to get to know the individual underneath. We can make all kinds of decisions of people without taking the time to get to know them. Plus, this helps feed into the “Us v. Them” narrative we’ve all been fed over the decades. Fuck, we do it as casual sports fans. We do it as Pagans. We even build divides in this manner at our jobs – the workers versus the administration. All because we’re too lazy to get to know the individual underneath. Libras are like this. Fluffy bunnies are just vapid airheads that can’t see the power of the dark. Trump supporters are all white supremacists that want to destroy the American government. And then there are the suppositions of the diametrically opposed perspectives to each of those perspectives, and all the perspectives that are not named. Except one. That we’re all people here. We all have a right to live. We all have right to express our opinions. And our rights stop at the tips of the noses of other people. But I am allowing this to tip into a previously written post.

We all choose our own communities. We do. I chose to be on my Path as a Druid. This Path appealed to core values that I have concerning nature, our environment, and the application of my beliefs to all of that. I chose to use Facebook because it’s a convenient way to stay in touch with a large group of people. The people I have friended there are a part of my own community. I post there to share information, get things off my chest, and even share a laugh. I post to be a part of a community that I value, even when we disagree with various points. Choosing my own community is a freedom I greatly value.

About a decade and a half ago, I came across a term that has always intrigued me. “Intentional Community.” According to Wikipedia, intentional communities are defined as:

…a voluntary residential community(ies) designed from the start to have a high degree of social cohesion and teamwork. The members of an intentional community typically hold a common social, political, religious, or spiritual vision, often follow an alternative lifestyle and typically share responsibilities and property. Intentional communities can be seen as social experiments or communal experiments. The multitude of intentional communities includes collective households, cohousing communities, coliving, ecovillages, monasteries, survivalist retreats, kibbutzim, hutterites, ashrams, and housing cooperatives.

“Intentional Community”, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intentional_community

I would also note that much of this can also be applied to the communities we form within our Paganism. We might not cohabitate together, but we share our lives together to whatever degree that we feel comfortable. Whether that be through gathering for celebrations of the Wheel of the Year, rituals around the cycles of the moon, or just getting together around a fire to talk and enjoy life – we collectively share together and make a community – intentional or accidental. We choose to be a part of all of that, as well as how deep we will be involved. We might not share households, spouses, children, pets or what have you. We still share ourselves. We can even decide how exclusive we choose to be.

Alia is still correct. We choose our communities. Alia, after graduating, went on to work with a few of her friends in developing an office for counseling people who are dealing with mental issues in their lives. She’s still that same black-lipstick, lip-ring goth…with a whole lot of tattoos that she didn’t have back when we ate lunch at our local Community College. Me? I’m the same Pagan I was back then, except that I eventually found my way into Druidry. While Programming Logic wound up being her elective, for me its been the basis of computer career. As I think back and remember those days, the two of us sitting back-to-back at the edge of the concrete, using one another for support…we formed our own little community out there in the northwest Louisiana summer. Just for a single semester. But it existed. Amazing what you learn during your lunch breaks while at college, eh? 😉

–Tommy /|\

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Thinking About: Alpaca Lips – An Opinion

I am doing my usual thing for a weekend blog post. Trying to figure out what to write. In the meantime, I’m drinking coffee, listening to music, and reading Facebook posts from friends digging out from the recent snowfall in the Northeast. We’ve had no snow here in central Texas. Only a few days of freezing weather. All of which sucks, because I love the snow. Not the shoveling part. Not the driving on the stuff part. I love taking walks during the time of snowfall. I love how sound is muffled during this time. How the world quiets down. It does the same thing during fog as well, just not as dramatic. Yeah, the cold is never that pleasant, especially for me. I prefer the warmth. But cold, snowy days do allow for nice fires in the fireplace, sitting in front of the crackling flames, drinking steep cups of hot cocoa, with whatever passes for entertainment of the moment filling the room with the symphony of its noise.

Most people I know down here in Texas hate the winter weather. Unlike those much further north in longitude, Texans freak out when water falls from the sky – in any form. Rain, snow, aquarium water thrown from a second-floor window…its all apocalyptic. The next expectation tends to be frogs raining from the skies, and there is the occasional threat of fish falling from the sky. Honestly, if I saw fish falling from the sky during a storm, my next expectation would be that Sharknado (Gods, what a crappy movie!) was about to happen. 😉

The Alpaca Lips. The end of the times. That moment when the earth stops spinning on its axis and we are all flung into space. Or aliens arrive from space to claim our resources and cleanse the Earth of the plague known as “human-kind.” Or when the tectonic plates shift radically, or the climate shifts to quickly that we all freeze instantly. Or the apocalyptic moment of my generation – two world powers launch nuclear weapons at one another, creating an environment that can sustain none of us. We’ve all seen the notations of death and destruction from so many angles, so many lenses.

Even Pagans see coming doom and destruction through the lens of the culture wars raging between Conservative and Liberal politics here in the United States (and elsewhere). The coming “Storm.” Some say its already here. Some say the worst is still yet to come. At one point, I agreed with that perspective. Now, a few years down the line, not so much. I see the continuation of a cycle. A repeat of a lot of things I saw back in the 1980s, and historically moments that happened in the 1960s and 1970s. We’re in the grips of a cycle that continually occurs.

Yes, there is imminent danger in what is occurring, just as there was back in the 1980s. When I started down my Pagan Path in 1986, Evangelical Christians were in the grips of seeing Satan everywhere. Anything that did not resemble a Christianity that they knew, “observed” in their daily lives, and desired within their own hearts was suspect. The time also lent credence to the charlatans of their cause. People who utilized those fears to sell books, tickets to their concerts and gatherings, and ply their “stories” on the radio and television. Mike Warnke, a Christian “comedian” who peddled tales of joining a massive Satanic cult that was infiltrating America through governments and the United States military. Warnke claimed that he had been indoctrinated during his time in Naval bootcamp, and eventually rose to a “high” position in this organization. Nearly a decade after he first arrived on the scene, a Christian magazine “Cornerstone” uncovered his story as a complete fraud, debunking his claims of a widespread organization. Many others, who had written books and created careers around their false claims, were debunked and discredited as well. But not before families were torn apart, having charges of Satanism, child ritual abuse, and other allegations levied against them. During that time, many preachers and Christian leaders whipped up the fury that was known as the “Satanic Panic.”

Oddly enough, loose-knit “organizations” such as QAnon are working from that same playbook. Whipping up allegations of ritual abuse, human sacrifice, and even cannibalism against the other side of the political spectrum. Much of that has led to a resurgence of the “Satanic Panic” with Warnke (and many others) being touted as having survived all of this and forced to go underground. Publicly, we’re seeing a resurgence of Christian Evangelicals hitting their “panic” buttons and pointing fingers directly at Pagans again with their charges of Satanism, depravity, and such along with a new twist: Pagans apparently want to destroy the American government.

So, is this aspect of the “Culture Wars” here in the States the so-called coming “Storm?” Well, maybe. I’m not one for prying into Crystal Balls, consulting runes, or reading Tarot cards to find that future. Much like when I want to predict the weather, I look to my surroundings, and compares that to what I know has happened in the Past. Sad as it may seem, humans are predictable. We do love an Alpaca Lips. Our collective appetite for novels, movies, and tv shows of that variety are a case in point. So is our society’s collective desire to embrace the most outlandish fears of death, destruction, and widespread chaos. We see our fellow human beings as wild, savage, and capable of the most incomprehensible acts against others.

Me, I prefer to think better of people. But that may be a foolish hope at this point. Story after story of people raining down mental and physical abuse on others – over such things as political preferences – may be the start of the nails in that coffin. Everywhere I look here in central Texas, I see people lining up into two sides. Creating their “Us v. Them” lines of demarcation. Yes, I’ve seen this before. Yes, that was the Satanic Panic at its height. Thankfully, stories were debunked in a manner that brought everyone back to a point of level-headedness. But I truly must wonder if that can be managed this time? At this point, I’m not so sure.

So, what to do? How do we collectively survive all of this? Is this really the so-called “Storm?” Well, we survive together, not apart. If things do hit that apocalyptic moment, be prepared to help others. Most people hate what I am about to say because it doesn’t fit into what they perceive at this time. But those people who are the “Them” in your ‘Us v. Them” paradigm – they are people too. And if the world is going to come crashing down around our ears, they deserve mercy and help as well. I know that’s not a popular mindset, but its where I come from. Most folks know that I am a huge Grateful Dead fan. I happen to do my best to live by something that Mickey Hart, one of the drummers for the Grateful Dead, said at the end of their ‘Fare Thee Well” concerts:

I’ll leave you with this: Please, be kind.

Mickey Hart, 05 July 2015, Chicago, Illinois

–Tommy /|\

Photo by Krivec Ales on Pexels.com

Don’t Follow Too Closely. Just in Case I Fail My Dexterity Check

What is it about following a Spiritual Path that brings to mind a long, rambling road Like we’re out to have an adventure. Our feet flying down the Path, the extremely long contract streaming out behind us as we race to catch up to the group of dwarves that just wrecked our house? Of course, that imagery comes from “The Hobbit” as Bilbo Baggins races down the path to catch up with the company of Thorin Oakenshield. Yet, I’ve heard this description applied to many an individual’s thoughts about the start of their own journey into Paganism.

I bring this up, thanks to a post by Nimue Brown over on her blog “Druid Life”. That post, titled “Following a spiritual path,” brings a lot of thoughts to mind. Her post had me thinking about my own start down this Path, how its never felt like a straight line, and why I eschew the mantle of leadership in a general form. I thought all of this would provide some interesting perspective, as well as letting my mind stretch its legs a bit – so to speak.

Beginnings

I remember my start on the road of Paganism. That feeling of such newness, such wonder…and confusion. So many different roads to take. So many ways of approaching life. So many perspectives on the afterlife, spell-work, and so many other things. All of it so different from the Southern Baptist faith I was leaving behind, and the Catholic faith that I had grown up inside of. The Wiccan High Priestess I was involved with offered a few books to help me understand – at least that was the hope. “Drawing Down the Moon” by Margot Adler, “The Spiral Dance” by Starhawk, “Witchcraft From the Inside” by Raymond Buckland, and “Witchcraft Today” by Gerald Gardner. Of the four books that were provided to me for my reading, Adler’s made the most sense. Plus, its presentation of several different Paths in a format that resembled a face-to-face discussion had a much higher appeal than the other books. Starhawk’s presentation did not appeal much to me as it seemed to skew heavily towards the feminine (duh), and my Libran tendencies were already in full effect even this early in my Path. I was seeking something that was more equal between the genders, and this was just not providing that. Buckland’s book was difficult to digest, and Gardner’s writings went way over my head. Despite all of that, I was still eager to continue my footsteps along this new Path.

It’s a dangerous business going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.

Bilbo Baggins

Crooked Lines

I’ve never felt like my Path to Druidry has ever been a straight line. Indeed, I’ve also never felt that my Path within Druidry has ever been a straight line either. Nimue states in her post: “Increasingly for me, the idea of following a path is just about ambling around having experiences. I don’t feel like I’m going anywhere, and I’m fine with that.” I completely concur with this. There has rarely been a flowcharted process to get to where I am now. Not a lot of “A then B” or other aspects of programming logic. Rather, there’s been a lot of “this looks interesting, I wonder what its all about” type of stuff. I have found that my style of Druidry has been much closer in satisfying my curiosity and thirst for knowledge than it has been in any other manner. Sure, I accept that being within Druidry means that the title of “priest” gets auto-attached to me, but the reality of what I am is so much different than that. In that regard, the Path has been a winding one – sometimes even doubling back on itself.

And I may lose my way home
While I’m lookin’ in the wrong direction
And I know I’m not alone
So I do the best I can
As I begin again
To walk the long way home

Jon Butcher, “The Long Way Home” from the album “Wishes”

Sure, there’s moments where I feel completely lost during all this exploration. What am I looking for? Sometimes, I’m never sure of that. Or anything else for that matter. Boy there sure are some lessons and experiences tied to all of that though. Some good. Some bad. All valuable to one degree or another. Life is surely not a straight line. If it was, it be as boring as driving Interstate 70 in western Kansas. Trust me…its boring.

Leadership

Then there’s the perspective of leadership. I’m not really the type of person to be a leader or at least that’s how I’ve always felt. Even today. Yet, there are people that look to me for direction. Like I’m a compass out of the forest. Maybe I am…for other people. I know that my life has always been a series of dead-ends where I wind up back-tracking because of poor decision-making on my part. I’ve been there as recently as the beginning of this previous year. The good news is that you can always turn around and try again. It can be embarrassing to walk into those dead-ends and then walk back out. But hey…stuff happens. If my mistakes help others to keep from making their own mistakes…well, if that’s a quality of leadership…sure. 😊 I’ve watched a lot of leadership issues within the Pagan community in the last thirty-five years. I know that I am not the individual people should closely follow. But perhaps, I can inspire people with the attitude of getting up and trying again. If that is helpful – so be it. But I still caution you…don’t follow closely. When I spring the trapdoor, it might be better if only one of us falls to our doom after failing our dexterity rolls. 😉

So do I, and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.

Gandalf the Grey

So where am I going with all of this? Well, its rather simple. We all make mistakes. We can go back through our past and take a very jaundiced look at those misdeeds. We can see where we made our errors, and hopefully learn from our missteps and misdeeds. And through that yellowed lens, we can also replay what happened in our minds, and see what other options may have been available to us that we didn’t see. Seriously, Life is a journey. Its not a straight Path. Sometimes, you’ll have to stop, and go back to the last crossroads. At some point, we will sit down and lament the fact that we are on this journey. That’s ok. Its ok to have doubts. Its also ok to change your perspective over the years…after all, you are so much further down the Path than you were back then.

–T /|\

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Ritual Happens…A Lot

Over the weekend, I wrote an entire blog post for today. This morning, I find myself not wanting to publish it, as its another screed on politics. I don’t think I need to go that route. This is, after all, a blog aimed towards my Spiritual Path – not a blog aimed at ranting on politics. My politics are not my Spirituality. Instead, let’s take a different path for today, shall we?

Too often, when I talk with non-Pagans about my Spirituality I am assailed by their mental images of me performing human sacrifices, drinking blood as I toast Satan, or wild orgies with multiple partners. Well, human sacrifice just ain’t my bag. Taking a life is an affront to what I believe is sacred and should never be done unless absolutely necessary. Just my two quid. Partaking of blood? No thanks. I’m not overly fond of the sight of blood, even when I am testing my blood sugars for my diabetes. And Satan? A Christian construct for “evil”. I’m definitely not a Christian of any sort. As for the wild orgies…never seen that happen. But if you could point me in the right direction…no, I’m kidding. But I’ve never seen an orgy of any sort break out in a Pagan ritual environment. Not saying that it never happens – just that I’ve never seen such an occurrence in my three and a half decades on my Pagan Path. But ritual? Yes, ritual happens. A lot.

There’s this common thought, particularly from non-Pagans and newbie Pagans, that Pagans do rituals for everything. Making coffee? There’s a ritual. Taking a pee? There’s a ritual. Stepping outside to go to your car? There’s a ritual. Listening to a lot of that, I always get the feel that Paganism should be a secular version of the Catholic faith. We should all be on your knees or prostrate before the altars in our homes – honoring the Gods with every exhaled breath. I used to get frustrated at such thoughts, but these days…I just smile to myself and silently giggle. There are Pagans like that, which there is nothing wrong with. But I’m not that kind of Pagan. I do my rituals when I have need to do so, usually at the seasonal celebrations of the Wheel of Life…which I don’t really hold to that construct. My view is that it is more like a trail that I have walked throughout my life, with the points of seasonal celebrations viewed as way-points. That’s a discussion for another time though.

For me, I see my everyday existence as a ritual, of sorts. Working my way through the day, troubleshooting issues as each arrives, finding solutions to help me get on to the next necessary task, eating, sleeping, playing, flirting, talking, discussing…its all part of my honoring my Gods with my efforts. I’m not some holy man. I’m just a simple Druid making my way through Life, one single day at a time. I can’t predict the future. I subscribe to Alan Kay’s perspective: “If you want to predict the future, invent it.” (For those who are wondering, Alan Kay is a computer scientist, who is one of the fathers of Object-Oriented Programming) I know many folks within Paganism get caught up in the nets of Tarot and work towards seeing the future. I’m not one of those people. A single day at a time is enough for me. Frankly, that’s just my perspective. Others with a different perspective, I’m glad that it works for them.

Which leads me to ritual itself. Not really the “hows” of it. That varies widely depending on the tradition or the practitioner or even the reasoning behind it. Rather, I want to lean on the “why” of it, which will provide an even wider set of data points than you could ever imagine. Everyone has their own reason behind the rituals that they have in their lives. From making coffee to deep, religious perspectives. All of these will differ from person to person to group to tradition. However, I came across a quote from Joseph Campbell that I felt lends a touch to this “discussion” I am writing here.

A ritual can be defined as an enactment of a myth. By participating in a ritual, you are actually experiencing a mythological life. And its out of that participation that one can learn to live spiritually.

Joseph Campbell, “The Power of Myth“, p.228

Here, Campbell is discussing the spiritual (or if you prefer, religious) aspect of ritual. I am not entirely sure that every ritual can be described as a re-enactment of a myth, but I would posit that the ecstatic aspect of ritual does provide an injection of feeling that brings an individual (or group) much closer to any mythological aspect that they are approaching. As an example, at a Pagan Pride Day here in Dallas, John Beckett (and the group of Pagans with him) led a moving ritual for Cernunnos. I, unfortunately, did not get to participate since I was watching the cash box for the vending side of Pagan Pride Day. However, I was just up the hill from the ritual, and I could feel the energy emanating from it. The ritual was powerful, heart-felt, and from what I heard from those who were much closer – there was an energy and feel that was incredible to experience. In this instance, the ritual provided an exact fit to Campbell’s definition. I would also hold that not every ritual is going to provide this type of feeling nor should there be an expectation that it will. Rituals hold very different meanings for others.

If you’re looking to dig even deeper into rituals, I would recommend Rachel Patterson’s book “The Art of Ritual.” In it, you will find discussions on tools, examples of rituals, and some discussion on the meaning of those rituals. In my opinion, its an excellent starting point, particularly if you are looking to connect stronger in your rituals.

For me, ritual is about taking a few moments to honor the Gods in a very specific way. I don’t do a ton of rituals anymore. I have specific time frames to do what I do. But I certainly don’t need to drop to a ritual moment for everything. I don’t lie prostrate before the Gods to honor Them. For me, living my life intentionally as a Pagan is enough. But I’m also not in the habit of pissing all over what ritual means to others. We all approach our Gods and our lives in our own way. It would be absolutely profane of me to declare my way as the “only way.” Because its not.

–Tommy /|\

DFW Pagan Pride Day 2013
DFW Pagan Pride Day 2013

Thinking About: Inherit the Wind, a Lack of Discussion, and Chain-Link Fences to Climb

I just finished watching the 1960 movie “Inherit the Wind” for the millionth time. Well, maybe more like the fiftieth time, but it certainly feels like the millionth. The film, starring Spencer Tracy, Frederic March, Dick York, Harry Morgan, and Donna Anderson, is a parable of the 1925 Scopes “Monkey” Trail. The 1960 film is meant to portray the McCarthyism movement of the late 1950s, where individuals were accused of being un-American during the “Red Scare” of Communism. This was a time where Hollywood celebrities (among others) were black-listed and sometimes jailed as Communist sympathizers. Accusations were freely thrown around, and I daresay that the ripples of this time echo into today’s political culture in various fomentations against what many fundamentalist aspects of society deem as “counter-culture” perspectives.

Indeed, there are moments within the film itself that remind me of permutations of our theological culture as it exists today. When lawyer Henry Drummond and politician Matthew Brady rail against one another’s perspectives of the King James Bible (during the period where Brady is being questioned on the stand as a witness by Drummond), you can watch the immense battle of each one trying to be “right” in the eyes of the jury, judge, and the crowd in the courtroom – you get a good sense of what the issue is between the two sides. A single, overriding desire to be “right.” To “win” at all costs, as Brady uses a private conversation with the accused’s fiancé as a cudgel in the courtroom, irreparably damaging a trust between himself (Brady) and the young lady.

For what little its worth, I’ve watched this battle in many different configurations. Particularly coming from the Evangelical Christian corner. I remember the Satanic Panic of the 1980s, where scores of Pagans, and other non-Pagans were reported to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, which launched investigation after investigation against families – sometimes separating families during these procedures. During that same time frame, other Evangelicals launched their own crusade against popular rock music, claiming Satanic messages were being recorded backwards into the music. Lawsuits against bands such as Ozzy Osbourne, Judas Priest, among others, were launched after children of families committed suicide. The allegation was that the music drove these children to take their lives. Claims of Satanic abuse cropped up from Evangelical Christians, many of whom accepted speaking fees for their tales or wrote books about their harrowing experiences – all of which turned out to be false. In the late 1990s, on into today, right-wing Conservatives (I’m not willing to call these folks Republicans, as their values are far different from the Republicans that I knew in the 1980s) have declared that there is a war on conservative culture, all of which is parroted on the radio and television airwaves by various media “personalities” who spend their time sneering at those whose values are different from their own. That’s the stuff that’s easy to see.

Not so easy to see is the same measures within the rest of modern culture. We’ve had Pagans trying to figure out if you’re “Pagan Enough” to be a Pagan. Other Pagans who sneer and act derisively towards Pagans that are all “light and love” – focusing on the difference between their own Path, which features a self-admitted “darker” side of Paganism. Plus, the constant derision poured on Christians of any stripe. Where the Christians claim their Path’s infallibility comes from a book that they claim as divine inspiration, I’ve heard Pagans claim a similar moral superiority from an “historical” lineage of their belief system that supposedly descends much further into the Past than the Christian faith. As if either perspective has an iron-clad chokehold on the Truth. No divine inspiration? Your Path is a fraud. No historical lineage? Your Path is a delusion.

If you’ve never seen “Inherit the Wind”, I suggest you take the time to watch the movie. Pay attention to the way all the discussions and arguments take place. Keep an eye on how the concept of “truth” is handled. How easy it is for others to just accept the arguments because of their faith and belief without questioning. Pay attention to how easy it is for many of the characters to grasp towards the shroud of “victimhood.” We are no more immune to those processes than we were back in the 1950s at the height of the “Red Scare.” Once you pull the shroud off that concept, its rather easy to look around and see how we’ve managed to come to that same place. Except now the enemies are dressed in politics more so than religious fundamentalist perspectives. We live in a world of “Us” and “Them.” And if you are not “Us” – you’re “Them.” Automagically. Because its easier to live in a world of a bipolar dichotomy than it is to believe the world is more complicated than that.

Yet, our world is more complicated than that. And yet, its also not. Its complicated in the manner that we all approach our connection to the world around us differently. We seek the Divine in our own manner. We accept our Truths in what we experience, and how that occurs. Yet, its not that complicated, as we can boil away all the differences, all the beliefs that we have – all that’s left in the crucible when we’re done are human beings. We’re all the same. We’re all different. All at once. At the same time. Yet, we continue to place everyone into camps of opposing thoughts, and then declare that those who do not agree with us are wrong. Evil. Should be eliminated. Should be denigrated. Humiliated. Treated as inferiors. All because we can’t agree that the Divine and Sacred cannot take a different form than what we experience that as. How arrogant of us all.

We’ve lost our civility as a society. It wasn’t a fast change either. Its taken a few decades to get here. How do we go back to where we respect each other’s right to our own perspectives without being ridiculed, yelled at, or threatened? Or can we? I’d like to hope that we can. Right now, I see now other avenue to take. Not even a skinny, barely traveled hiking trail. All I can really offer is to keep walking along this blacktop road we’re on and look for other directions we can take. Even if its just a chain-link fence to climb over….

–Tommy /|\

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Thinking About: There’s One Thing in Which We Are the Same – We’re Different.

I don’t do divination or prophecy and rarely do I touch on magick. I live my life a single day at a time. I don’t want to know too much about things that are too far down the road. And magick? Well, that’s usually left as a “nuclear option” when hard work, sweat, and brains don’t suffice – which those methods are typically more than enough. I realize that much of that is antithetical to the approach that most Pagans take. For some, magick is the very first arrow they pull from their quiver. Bully for them. I’m not about to tell anyone how to manage their lives, even when it comes to magick or some other point. I’m more focused on trying to make the right choices in my own life. After all of that, I still hear that I should be worrying about this or that in the realm of politics – especially here in the United States. ::big sigh::

Usually, when I start hearing political talk, my tendency is to tune out. I learned a long time ago that trying to “discuss” politics with anyone is a losing proposition, even with those who tend to agree with your own point of view. Plus, I’m not “woke” enough to sit and argue endlessly over how politics is going to save the world. My views are far more middle ground than most folks out there. I don’t see a ton of good points in the left or the right. Thus, I tend to push all the bickering and garbage off to the side and focus on what I need to be focused on. Yeah, I hear a lot about how my focus is too self-focused, but that’s really where my focus needs to be. Before I can help a single soul, I must help myself. I can’t help you stand on your own if I am on my hands and knees. Too often, I get judged by others who compare where I am at with where they are at. Since they have got their shit together, the same holds true for me.

I hear a lot about how my Druidry MUST include politics. Well, no it doesn’t HAVE TO. I choose to push that out of my Druidry…but I also don’t demand that others do the same in their Druidry. That’s because one person’s Druidry is their own individual perspective. What makes Druidry for them comes from what they believe to be important in their beliefs. No one, not me, not anyone, has the right to tell others how they should be practicing their own beliefs. If another person looked at my approach to my Druidry and felt that it resonated with them enough to use it…they made that choice, not me. They are the only ones that have that choice.

I rail on this point constantly. That’s because I feel it is an individual freedom. Everyone makes the choices of what they will do, what they will accept as fact, and why they make that choice. None of that is a choice I get to make for someone else. They get to make that choice for themselves within their own individual Spirituality – their own connection to the Divine. I’m not their intercessor with the Gods. Nor would I care to be any such thing at any given time. I refuse to step between someone else and their connection to the Divine.

I’m not here to bend a single soul’s perception to my own perception. I’m not here to be the expert on Paganism, Druidry, or Paganism. I am the thirty-five-year expert on my own individual perceptions to all of that. But only on my own individual perception. I am completely sure of that perspective. But I won’t and cannot be the expert on yours. I categorically refuse.

I know that this stance is confusing for many new Pagans that find posts like this for me. I’ve been a Pagan for thirty-five years, surely I’m an expert over those thirty-five years? Hardly. I know Paganism from my viewpoint. I know Paganism according to my own biases. I can’t know Paganism from your viewpoint. I’m not you. I can explain why and how I see Paganism from my vantage point from around our collective fire, but in the end – its still just my vantage point.

I’m no guru. I’m not sitting on the mountaintop, waiting for you to climb to its heights, and posit a query for me to muse upon. If anything, I’m wandering the mountainside myself…seeking answers as well. Working through my own experiences. Perhaps, we can sit down for a while, talk, and share experiences? We’ll learn a little from one another that way. After all, we will see different things…we’ll try different methods and approaches. Because we’re not the same…and out of all te points I can make – that one means the most to me.

–T /|\

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Thinking About: The Gods, You, and Your Choices

Its an innocent question, especially if you’re new to Paganism. “How do you worship the Gods?” But it can also be twisted slightly into “How SHOULD you worship the Gods?” I got this question an Email over the weekend..the version without the SHOULD in it. Answering it seems quite simple and easy. But like any other question in the arena of personal Spirituality, its not as simple as it sounds.

Worship of the Gods comes in whatever form you desire. That’s the easy way to view things. You do whatever feels “natural” and “right” in providing worship to Them. If its “wrong” or not “right” you’ll hear about it. From the Gods, from those who worship those Gods, from your hardcore Christian friends…it seems like everyone feels they have the “right” to weigh in on what you do in your veneration of the Gods. Knowing that can happen, many folks shy away from being public about their perspective on stuff like this. Its understandable. Who in the Nine Hells wants a beat-down from every direction? It happens, just not as often as you might think. But it does happen. Except here in this blog post. I’m not about to tell you what you do or do not need to do to worship the Gods. I’ll only say that its not as easy as you think it is.

That’s right. You don’t pick up the Deities & DemiGods Handbook (Dungeons and Dragons), drool over that smoking hot sketch of Freya and offer your horn-dog self up to be Her sex slave. Well, it could happen that way. But I’d offer that She is likely to bitch-slap you into several yester-years when She eventually tires of your shit. Just my opinion there. Worshipping the Gods can truly be as easy as lighting a few candles, lighting some incense, and saying a few words of adoration. However, if you want to tie yourself with a God, its not as easy. Making a pact with a God is like making a pact with the fairies. Its not an easy deal, and likely you’re not covering all your bases. However, if you can work it to a favorable perspective for you, such a pact can be quite fruitful.

I’m tied in with Coyote, Crow and Abnoba. When I started working with Coyote, and Crow – I was made into a fool with the things that were suggested for me to do and try. Eventually, I got frustrated and meditated my frustration and anger towards Them. Why would They want an idiot like me to work with Them? If They wanted to work with me, why make me look like a fool? Was I just to be some kind of play-thing? Their response was simple and took me aback just a bit. They wanted to work with someone who had a spine, someone that could evaluate what was being asked to do something and could say “no.” They wanted someone who wouldn’t be a “yes” person. That took a while for me to acclimate to. Over the years, I’ve said “yes” far more than I’ve said “no.” I’ve also learned to justify my answers as well. But that’s been through years of work – lots of trial and error.

I’ve had plenty of claims of appropriation leveled against me for working with First Nations’ Gods. Frankly, the Gods choose who They choose. As a white guy, I always found it troubling that I had these two Gods working with me. When I thought of trying to add First Nations’ methodologies to my Spiritual practice, I was reminded that I was not of “the people” (Their term for the First Nations’ people). My workings and pact with Them did not provide a pass into that culture. My workings with Them was to be “different.” And it has been.

The Gods do claim whom They wish to. Sometimes, you get the chance to say no. Honestly, I would say “no” if The Morrigan expressed a wish to work with me. I’m just not built in a manner to work in the areas that She tends to be in. Plus, my uber-Libra nature would cause me to question motives, reasons, and such things in a way that might not appropriate to deal with Her. I’d rather keep my life a little less chaotic, thank you very much.

So how should you worship the Gods? Well, that’s more trial and error for the most part. At least in my opinion. How you approach the Gods will be far different than my own. I don’t lie prostrate before the Gods. I stand. In silence. With respect. The Gods are not my equals. They are far greater than I am. But I don’t need to make myself inferior to Them because of that. I exist here, materially. They don’t. Though there are myths and legends of yesteryear that say otherwise. My pacts with Coyote, Crow, and Abnoba (to a lesser degree) are for me to act on Their behalf on tasks that They require of me. Some are easy. Most are not. Far fewer are extremely difficult. While I provide respect and acknowledge Their presence as being special to me – I’m not in the position to place Them front and center in my rituals and rites. Remember, I am not of “the people.” I am not to try and turn myself into something I am definitely not.

There will be those that say that you SHOULD worship THIS God or Goddess in THIS manner. Honestly, I would defer to their perspective on that. Its their way to approach their respective God or Goddess. I could not ascertain the “rightness” or “wrongness” of their preferred methodology. Well, unless they were sacrificing people’s lives or killing/mutilating animals. I don’t believe that the life-force of anything needs to be sacrificed to appease some Being from another realm. Just my two quid into the pot on that.

So, how should someone worship the Gods? Well, whatever way you believe you should. I would posit that most worship is done in the vein of love and respect. Just how you show and convey that, is really up to you, in my opinion. If the Gods show you a different way, as Coyote and Crow have done for me, follow that. But in the end, you’re in control of you. You know what works and are aware when something doesn’t work for you. That holds true in worship of the Gods as well. If you do a ritual a certain way because it was what was taught to you…that’s awesome! If you like to go “off script” and you find that its what resonates with your daily Spirituality and feels like a stronger connection with the Gods and your environment around you….super awesome! Keep doing that!! Your choices are yours to make…

In closing, I’ll share a something I wrote on Facebook about a dozen years ago.

Individual choices are merely echoes within life….the ripples from each provides a cascade we can only fathom in our deepest imaginations.

me

Do you wish to worship the Gods within your daily practice? That choice is ultimately yours. As is the choice of how you go about doing so. Your spirituality, your choices.

–Tommy /|\

THAT Feeling. THAT Energy. Its Worth the Search.

“What is a successful Pagan experience?” Aoife, a reader of the blog, asked me this question in an Email exchange. Well, in my not so humble opinion, there’s not an easy answer. That’s because what makes a successful experience – those moments that just click so naturally you wonder why you never noticed before – is as different for each person as each person is a unique individual when compared to others. Because of that, its easier to explain what I consider those moments to be in my own past. Hopefully, it sheds enough light that others can relate.

One of my very first moments goes all the way back into my younger childhood. Right around the age of ten. My family was living in military base housing in Wiesbaden, Germany (West Germany at that time). As a family, we would go out every weekend (usually a Sunday) and participate in Volksmarches throughout the German countryside. Sometimes, we would drive two or three hours to participate in a particular Volksmarch event. Others were short drives from Wiesbaden. Sometimes we walked our ten-kilometer marches with my mother’s family (my mother was German, and I still have many relatives in Germany to this day). Other times, we walked with military families that we knew. Often, we made friends with other families walking in the events. During the marches, there were stations where you got a Volksmarching card stamped. At the end of the ten kilometers, you would turn in your card and receive a commemorative medallion which detailed the individual or event that was the celebratory aspect of the entire walk. I still have all those medallions….somewhere. I’ve always wanted to put those into shadow boxes to be displayed, but that’s another story for another time. Anyways, I remember one walk in particular. The ten-kilometer path was marked through part of the Black Forest. I forget which medallion commemorates this walk, But I will never forget the walk. The forested area of the walk went through a stretch in a hilly area. Off to either side was super thick forest. The pine trees were very close together. You couldn’t walk between the trunks without the branches clawing at your clothing. Most of the thinner trunks belonged to pine trees that were choked off from the sunlight of the taller trees. In later life, I would equate this experience to part of the Rush song “The Trees”:

There is unrest in the forest
Trouble with the trees
For the maples want more sunlight
And the oaks ignore their pleas

The trouble with the maples
(And they’re quite convinced they’re right)
They say the oaks are just too lofty
And they grab up all the light

But the oaks can’t help their feelings
If they like the way they’re made
And they wonder why the maples
Can’t be happy in their shade

“The Trees” by Rush

I even had that thought when I was walking through that forest. Why did the trees that were taller stay green, when the smaller trees had no pine needles at all? That question helped me with a Boy Scout badge, where I researched forestation concepts. But there was so much more that happened than just an inquisitive child seeing so many questions to be asked and answered.

Even with a large horde of people walking on the forest path – all talking, laughing, and calling to their kids to not get too far ahead (I was one of those kids, by the way) – the forest was silent. All you could hear was the wind pushing the taller trees back and forth, with the occasional creak of those trees straining against that unseen pressure. On part of the path, a small group of wild boars could be seen much further in the trees. People stopped to stare, point, and exclaim their astonishment of seeing animals that usually stayed away from humans. Eventually, they clamored enough to force the group to go further into the woods, where the thick gathering of trees quickly obscured them. My mind immediately sprang to the point of realizing that we were essentially walking through the living room of these boar. How would I feel if these boars walked through the small base housing unit we lived in, strolling between the couch and the tv? It was an odd moment of empathy for me. One I couldn’t shake, even further into my life. Then there was the voice in the back of my head.

You’re seeing the world differently now. There’s no going back. Only forward.

To this day, I have no idea what that voice may have been. A God or Goddess? A Spirit of Place? A Spirit of Ancestor? My own inner monologue? Something else entirely? I have no idea. I have my own theory, but its completely unproveable. I believe that a Spirit of Place was speaking to me, welcoming (somewhat) into a different perspective. But this is my older self trying to rationalize what my ten-year old self had encountered. I’ve never been able to figure it out. But that moment truly is where I started to see the world from perspectives other than my own. I’m not sure anyone else would call this a “successful” Pagan moment in my life, but I consider it as such. It’s a moment where what happened clicked into place.

I have talked about this type of moment with others, essentially canvassing them for their own moments that had this same feeling – that same energy. Some have noted similar moments in their first rituals, both solo and group. Where everything that happened in that moment just clicked into place. That they had found something that felt like they had come home – that there was this moment of peace, and “rightness” that came over them. Their lives had changed forever at that moment. There was no going back. Others have found that moment after reading a book on Paganism, where the author’s words were just so perfect. I’ve had that moment as well, while reading Kristoffer Hughes’ book “Natural Druidry.” I’ve been around Kristoffer enough that I can literally hear him reading this book to me as I went through it. Everything in it is right on target with what I call “my Druidry.” His writings have affirmed what Druidry is in my own life, how the concepts are becoming a deeper, richer part of my own self-identity. How I know this path of Druidry is where my footfalls truly belong. Yes…THAT feeling, THAT energy.

Successful moments in Paganism? In Druidry? Yes, all the time. Just as there are moments where failure happens. And from those failures, we learn, we grow. I dabbled in Wicca for a few years. Enough that I knew it wasn’t the path for me. It was a failure for me. Not so much in the sense that I feel Wicca is a waste of time, and a horrible system. More in the sense that this was not where my footfalls and energy belonged. Just because it doesn’t work for me doesn’t mean that I think it’s a useless and wasteful path for others. Nine Hells, it wasn’t useless or wasteful for me. It just wasn’t the path for me. It was an experience I learned from. Please don’t let me dissuade you from choosing any path you want. Its your choice. Its your footfalls. Its your energy. TRY things and see if it works for you. And when you find that feeling, where things are so right, so “home,” so “you” – you won’t be able to contain the joy inside you.

–Tommy /|\

Thinking About: 1983 and That Theology Class

This morning, my automated music application (MusicBee) started me off with some Ozzy Osbourne. Not an unusual musical choice for me. Ozzy was one of my very first steps out into the rock environment with his first solo album (Blizzard of Ozz). When I first heard the song “Crazy Train” I was completely hooked (forgive the pun here – my last name can be utilized as a variant to anything “hook” related). The soaring guitar riffs of Randy Rhoads were like nothing I had heard before. Most of my early childhood was spent listening to Tom T. Hall, Gilbert O’Sullivan, and the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s country music artists that were my father’s musical choices. MusicBee started me off with a cut from Ozzy’s 1983 solo album, “Bark at the Moon – the first studio album after the untimely death of Randy Rhoads.

1983 is an interesting year in my life. This was my junior year in high school. Many changes were arriving in my lap, all at the same time. I had my first steady girlfriend. I had my very first job. I was exposed to the concept of critical thinking in my Theology class. See, my parents didn’t believe that the public school system was a good choice for education. They wanted me to be “highly educated” – particularly in what they considered to be “classical education.” They felt that the Catholic school education model was far superior, and enrolled both myself and my sister in private Catholic schools, particularly for our high school education. I understood their reasoning, but only later in my life. They merely wanted to give their children an advantage that neither of them had. It’s a completely understandable perspective. What it did; however, was foment a growing revolutionary aspect in my mind. I was never truly enamored with the Catholic faith. It was pretty, and at some points it was interesting – but I’ve never been one to follow the crowd. That’s still true to this day. My preference has always been to find my own way.

Theology is a class that was taught at every year in the school I attended. It really wasn’t a class on all the beliefs that were out there. Essentially, it was a class meant to indoctrinate students into the Catholic faith. Each year built upon the previous year’s teachings – adding new material that was more complex in understanding. The function of the Priesthood, Nunneries, the Catechism, the reasoning, and aspects of the Rosary, the need and concepts behind confession, etc. etc. Me, not being a Catholic, I found this constant drilling unnecessary and unwelcome. However, I paid attention to the best of my ability. I went to the monthly forced services. I genuflected, stood, kneeled at the proper points of the Mass, but I never went to received communion. I just felt that this part of the Mass was meant for those that believed in the faith, not for a kid of protestant parents who had no desire to be in the Catholic faith. Then came my junior year Theology class, and suddenly my perspective of these “forced” classes changed – for a single semester.

It was the third semester. Spring is what they called it. In the beginning of January. We had just come back from the Christmas holidays. We were in a class of around twenty-five, and our scheduled time was right after lunch. We were full of food, and in a heated classroom. Sleepiness was a key factor. Our instructor brought out an old record player and set it on a four-legged stool at the front of the class. Great. We’re about to be bombarded with the Catholic version of gospel music. He took the record out of the sleeve, placed it on the turntable and put the needle on the disc. Jesus Christ Superstar’s opening overture started. With freakin’ hard rock guitars!! What was this witchery?? Catholic rock??

After the overture played, he took the needle off the record and stared at all of us – one by one. He had this huge smile on his face. “That’s what we are going to learn in this quarter,” he announced. Learn what? How to sing it? How to play it on instruments? We’re going to become musicians in a Theology class? “No, we’re going to learn critical thinking. Using this rock opera, the backdrop of Christ’s crucifixion, and your ability to think and change perspectives.”

Slowly, we went through the entire rock opera. Song by song. The lyric sheet was passed around to the class, so that we could read what was being sung. So that we could use those lyrics to five into deeper conversations about things I never thought I would hear in a Theology class. He spurred us on with statements and points questioning the divinity of Christ. We would argue that those statements weren’t true. He would challenge us back to prove our reasoning that his statements weren’t true. “You’re just stating what you’ve been taught. Regurgitating information rather than believing what you’re saying,” he cajoled us in one class period. “Think about what you believe. Make sure you believe what you’re saying. If you don’t, dig even deeper and find out why.” Soon, members of the class were bringing in other materials to prove their points. Books, audio recordings, magazine articles – nothing was out-of-bounds. At the end of the quarter, we took a “final” exam on the quarter on the material. There were questions on who played what role, what was the significance of a particular moment in the rock opera, and how did it differ from what we’ve been taught from the Bible. The very last question asked if we believed what we had been taught, and how did that play a part in our daily lives? The following year, our senior year, we were asked to go to local hospitals, nursing homes, and elementary schools to help out within our local community – Shreveport, Louisiana. We were excused from classes to be able to do this. It wasn’t until years later that I realized that this question was the crux of that performative duty. Anyways…

I answered the last question in a manner in which I received a “wrong answer” notation, along with a request to see the instructor after school was let out for the day. I was not happy with this, since it meant that I couldn’t spend another forty-five minutes playing on the new Apple ][ computers that had been installed in our computer studies classroom. But I knew that not following the request would result in a phone call to my father that I had not followed an instructor’s request, which quickly lead to a punishment that I didn’t want. I came to my instructor’s classroom, and he asked me to sit in the front row. As I sat down, he quietly closed the door and sat in the desk next to mine. “You’re answer on the last question of the exam,” he stated quietly. “Why?” I explained my reasoning. I didn’t want to answer a question that had me claiming a belief that I did not have. I didn’t believe in the divinity of Jesus ben Joseph. I didn’t even believe in the correctness of the Catholic faith. “You attend the monthly service. You could always stay back in the library with the other non-Catholic students instead.” I explained how I found the Mass to be a beautiful ceremony that depicted much of the symbology of what I had been taught in the Theology classes. I enjoyed the beauty of the ritual, even if I didn’t agree with what was being depicted. “What do you believe?” This was the toughest question to answer. I wasn’t sure. I knew that it had something to do with the outside. The beauty of the woods. The serenity of the wind blowing through the leaves of the trees. The feeling of the sun’s warmth on my face. The sting of cold rain driven into my face by a winter’s storm. To me, being outside was that serene feeling that I had heard several of my classmates express about being in Mass. I didn’t feel that in Mass. I felt that every time I was outside. When I finished, he stood up and held his hand out to me. I took it and he provided a very warm, friendly handshake. “I hope you find that somewhere Tommy.” I was quietly ushered out of the classroom, and he thanked me for coming to talk with him.

It took another three years before I found what I was looking for. Even when I found it, I continued to question its “rightness” and “appropriateness” in my life. I utilized some of the critical thinking skills I had attained within that class. Did I believe what was being said? Did it fit within my heart? Did it resonate in my mind as being a complete fit to what I knew about the world? Could I find something that eroded the foundation of what I believed? Most importantly, did any of this make the world come alive for me? The answers are self-evident. I’m now on my (counting on my fingers – and breaking out the calculator when I fail at it) thirty-sixth year on my Pagan Path. I’ve been on my Path longer than I had been alive at that moment in my Junior year of High School (I was seventeen). I’ve seen a lot in all of that time. Good groups, bad groups. Good leaders, bad leaders. Learning how to walk my Path alone. Encountering the Gods (and being scared shitless when I figured out what I had stumbled upon). I’ve been ridiculed over my beliefs. I’ve even been physically beaten because I’m not a Christian. I’ve been ostracized by others, simply because I didn’t believe as they did. Through all of that, I’ve remained a Pagan because it is what I believe. It is my approach to the world around me. It permeates who and what I am. But I would never force my belief and understanding on to anyone else. Because in that 1983 Theology class, I learned that not everyone believes the same way. That the best approach is to be happy for someone that has found a system of belief that provides them with an understanding of the world around them. Because it is best to show kindness to others, even when they don’t show you kindness.

As I said that year was formative to who I am today. I learned about myself – through music, through books, through others – and through that class. I’m not the best person in the world. Nine Hells, I’m not even the best person that I can be. But I try my best. Some days, that’s not enough. Other days, its more than I could ever fathom. In the end, it all evens out. All I can do is hope that I touch the lives of others in as positive a light that I can manage for the moment. ::smile::

–Tommy /|\

For the Love of Justice, Truth, and a Good Night’s Sleep

Every so often, I get asked about why I don’t post more about American politics or even World politics for that matter. “You’re a Druid,” is a response I hear often to my quiet shrug. “Don’t you have a mantra that suggests a love for Justice? Don’t you want to see ‘Justice’ done against Trump and his followers?” Or there’s an opposite aspect to that as well: “Don’t you believe in Justice? Don’t you want to see the witch-hunt against President Trump come to an end?” See, I have friends from both ends of the political spectrum, so I generally hear both sides of that point. My own perspective is far removed from both sides.

Most people don’t really grok where I come from with politics. I’m an unaffiliated voter in the state of Texas. This doesn’t really mean much here in Texas. Primaries are open in the state of Texas, meaning anyone can vote in any primary. Kind of dumb, huh? But even if the primaries were closed – in other words, Democrats voted only in Democratic primaries, etc. etc. – I would remain an unaffiliated voter. Its my quiet way of flying the finger at the stranglehold that the two-party system has here in America. Not that anyone was ever really looking for my middle-finger throughout all of it. 😉 Not much of a protest, but it is what I do. I was never about screaming my perspective from the ramparts in the first place.

So, when folks start flying the point about Druids being for “justice” – I’m always reminded that terminology can be equated to a double-edged sword. What some refer to something as “justice” does not always mean that someone else will see it the same way. When we start flinging the word “justice” around, we’re seeking restitution for action – trying to balance out an inequality (so Libra of me…LOL). When I get a call for justice bandied about or at me, the first thing I start looking for is an inequality that needs to be balanced. Well, here’s the hard part – trying to see both sides of the equation. Sometimes, its easy. Stuff can be two-toned in that respect. Other times, well…sometimes its hard to even comprehend the other side of an argument. Honestly, I can’t and don’t’ see or understand a lot of what the Trump supporters bandy about. For instance, all this kerfuffle about the election being “rigged.” I can’t really see things from their respective. I believe the election was fair, honest, and accurate. I also believe the same thing about the election when President Trump was elected. There was a lot of outrage over supposed Russian interference in the election. See, you can go back and back and back in history and find the losers of the various elections claiming widespread voter fraud. For me, “justice” demands that the alleged inequities be thoroughly investigated and reported. Every single time, voter fraud and irregularities were discovered but at such low levels that it would not sway the election in any significant manner. And in the name of love for “justice” – we, here in the United States, investigate the shit out of that stuff. So, when I get slammed with the point of the Druidic phrasing of the “love of justice” over the election…I point out instances such as this. Not that any of that sways the minds of those slapping me in the face with these charges like they are swinging a sea trout in a fish market.

Then there are those that slam me for not leading the charge to “get Trump”. Here, I point to the ongoing investigations, and note that these processes take time. “Too much time,” is the crackback. Agreed. It always feels like its too much time, particularly when you are already at some conclusion. Guilty, not guilty…everyone’s ready to free someone they believe in or jail the one they would prefer to vigilante justice upon for whatever wrongs have painted on those folks. Part of my “love for justice” is my larger “love of the truth.” That means letting investigations proceed at its own speed. The people appointed to the investigation are charged with seeking the truth, and I hold them to that charge. I would hope much of the citizenry does too. Even if that truth is opposed to their own perceived perspective of guilt or innocence. After all, that’s why we are holding an investigation – to make sure that the truth is known, and to make sure that the guilty are truly guilty. “Slam Trump in a jail cell, and then drop the prison on top of him!” Sure. I agree. If he’s guilty of whatever is being charged against him. I’d rather the investigation ran its course, the evidence be found and corroborated then to rush everything through and push the punishment onto him without the process being fulfilled to its end. Why? Well, its simple. I would want the same due process applied to me, were I to be charged with a crime. I would want the investigation to be thorough and complete, in the name of Justice and the Truth. If I, a simple citizen desire this for myself, in the name of equality – I want it for everyone else too.

I’m a Libra. I want the scales of Justice to be balanced. Honestly, I am a Libra. October 1st. Somewhere near the middle of the entire sign’s calendar dates. Balance, equality, justice, and truth are important to me. I’m as typical a Libra as you will find. Is it any wonder that I am an unaffiliated voter/ Or that I prefer to see both sides of an issue before I decide which one I would favor in my own opinion? Trust me, I’ve heard it all in association with myself. Waffler, incapable of making up my mind, fence-rider, middle-of-the-road, indecisive, non-confrontational… And all are true. Except when I do finally make up my mind. When I choose my side. I’m a warrior for that point. Because I know where things fall within my own perspective on the points of Truth, and Justice. And I know what’s “right” in that issue.

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.

I hate to say that my political perspective is derived from my understanding of the above prayer – what is referred to as the Druid’s Prayer. But it does. I choose to avoid affiliation from Democrats, Republicans, or any other political party – because I don’t completely believe what these parties quietly convey: party above all else. Their politics is not about doing what is best for the citizenry, but rather what is best for the party’s continued control of the three branches of government here in the United States. Others will argue that I’m wrong. That this party or that party have the best interests of the citizenry at the heart of their desire for control and power. That’s about the point where I do what now I am doing in this blog post: I shut my mouth and move on. Because my life is taken up with many more positive things than stuff like politics. And I really need to focus on those things to have another happy day ahead. And I do so like having happy days. Politics has its place and time…but right now, its time to get the house ready for another night of rest and sleep…politics has no place there. I have a love for justice and truth, but I have an even greater love for a good night’s sleep.

–Tommy /|\

Photo by Sora Shimazaki on Pexels.com

Revisiting – Static or Dynamic Mythology

Back in February of 2016, I wrote a blog post discussing the idea that the Gods are alive and continually growing. Badly titled as “Static or Dynamic Mythology”, its not a common post to show up in yearly blog hits. However, a reader of the blog wrote me privately asking me to do go back and take another look through the post and update my feelings on it. From time to time, I get requests like this – a request to go back and look at what I wrote. So, I title these as “Revisiting” posts. Honestly, I don’t do these that often, but its an interesting point, particularly when considering that my own perspective on things is always growing and changing.

Looking into the way-back machine, I recall that this post was a continuation on a panel at Pantheacon earlier in the year. The panel was titled “Morphing the Myth” with S.P. Hendrick, Diana Paxson, and an Australian gentleman whose name I never did get. The focus of the panel was on the reintroduction of mythology through the more modern methodologies of books, comics, tv shows, and movies. There was a lot of focus on the reinterpretation of the myths by the writing and production teams that put these reinterpretations together. As is always the case for reinterpretations, there are changes that are made to the entire original story – most done for effect for an audience. Some of the changes include combining characters in the story into a single entity to allow for a more cohesive flow to the story, or the less popular adding a new character out of thin air. If you’re wanting an example of that, remember the addition of Tauriel to “The Hobbit” movies which were based on the novel of the same name by J.R.R. Tolkien.

Utilizing this addition to Tolkien’s beloved masterpiece, let’s apply the question at hand. Is this change to the story a good one? Or is it bad? That’s a double-edged sword. Having watched the movies several times, Tauriel is a good addition to the story in my mind. However, her addition does alter aspects of the story in a way that doesn’t stay true to the novel. People who have their first introduction to the Tolkien novels – and in some cases it will be their only brush with Tolkien’s works – will forever have the understanding that Tauriel is a primary character that Tolkien created. After all, while the movie is an adaptation, they will never know the difference until they pick up the book. The addition of Tauriel does alter the story of the original novel in a way that shoves the story in a different direction. In the far-flung future, there will be an understanding and perception that Tauriel and her story-arc, particularly with Legolas and Kili. In this instance, we have a movie bending the story-arc for a novel in a manner that changes the overall story. For better or for worse? Well, that depends on the individual you talk with. Purists will find the change to be abhorrent. Only a story line that remains true to the original novel will do. Others, such as I, will see the change in the storyline as bringing an element to the story’s arc that provides some integral aspects of cohesion to the story to help move aspects of the plot along. An example of this is where Tauriel argues with Legolas over why the Elves should be involved in pursuits outside of the woodland realm – that Elves are part of Middle-Earth and will eventually be drawn into the coming inevitable war. Again, depending on who you talk with, the perspective of its good or bad nature can be seen from either direction.

The same holds true for movies, tv shows, books, and comics featuring the Gods and Goddesses and even the Heroes of Mythology. To be able to capture an audience, the Gods and Heroes depicted are provided with personalities that sometimes feel like these might be antithetical to what can be derived from works of mythology. Personally, I’m not fond of the depiction of Loki in the movies. However, I understood why the director, producer, and screen writers went to the trouble of making this depiction. It helps drive the storyline, which helps drive the ticket sales. Getting people into the theater means creating story lines that resonate with people. Completely understandable. Is this a bad thing or a good thing when it comes to the actual mythology?

Well, I would posit a question in a slight pivot from this. Could the Gods be capable of the depictions that we see and read about? In some cases, the Gods are shown as growing – changing perspective from one point to another over the course of the story. Is this possible? Well, as controversial as what I am about to say may be – I do believe that is true and possible. The Gods can change. I am not saying that Loki will suddenly slip out of the perspective of a Trickster to suddenly take over the mantle of the God of Justice and Law from Tyr. What I am suggesting is that the Gods can change Their perspective on areas of understanding as it relates to human beings and this realm. Instead of seeing humans as mere playthings, a feeling of endearment which sees humans as something to treasure and protect could come about. That’s just an example though. My belief is that the Gods can change Their perspectives over time. In other words, I don’t see the Gods as being static and unchanging. As humans change, the Gods Themselves can change as well – without changing the primary aspects of who They are.

At the end of the blog post, I approached another point that is just as critical to this line of thought. The debate of written versus oral. As I noted, good storytelling comes in three forms: oral, written, and visual. However, the true nature of storytelling comes from the storyteller themselves. Many people know a particular tale that can be told around the fire, but if you let them all tell the tale individually and independent of one another (in other words, none of them hears any of the other storytellers before they tell their version at the fire), you end up with many versions that are different from one another. Some storytellers will embellish on a perspective with additional information. Some will omit aspects of the tale that they don’t wish to add, for whatever reason. Others will alter pieces in a manner that emphasizes the parts of the tale that they like over others. Yet, its all still the same tale. The tale grows, alters, and morphs with each telling. Such is the nature of storytelling.

Could we not also consider the myths and tales we tell around the fire of the Gods to be the same? Not set in stone – static displays that never change – but tales and retellings that grow and change, just as our culture does? Morphs into new retellings that have new backgrounds, new perspectives that mirror our more modern settings? Our more modern understanding of morals and behaviors? One of my favorite moments from the television show the Highlander has Methos trying to explain to Duncan McLeod why he slaughtered villages of people on the steppes of Russia, which eventually had him portrayed as one of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse. When trying to justify his killing of the villagers, Methos points out that: “…the times were different. I was different. The whole bloody world was different.” Indeed. We look at our Gods, at Their mythologies, through the lenses of today’s society. Like it or not, we’re all carved through the morals and judgments of today. We look and listen to the stories that were produced in a time far different from our own. Stories that have been altered through the passage of time by the storytellers who kept such things alive – adding, subtracting, altering with the changing societal perspectives of the times. We tend to see the written word as a safe lock against that constant change. If its written, it can’t evolve, it can’t be changed. We have the “truth” as it should be. But are we locking the Gods into one shape, never allowing Them the capacity to change, evolve, and live? Does locking Them down into perspectives only mandated from the written word keep Them in that state – never to change? Never to provide Them with the ability to see the world around us differently? If They can’t change, and we can…who would really be the God? Just a thought… Me? I prefer to see my Gods as living, evolving, changing…for me, that’s what makes Them alive. And I truly believe that They are. That’s how I experience Them. Perhaps that’s how I should have titled this back in 2016 – “How I Experience the Gods”. Here in the dawn of 2022, it certainly makes more sense to me. Thanks to my evolving and growing perception of Them. 😊

–T /|\

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

Working Ritual Without a Safety Net

Circles. Barriers. Keep the energies in. Keep the bad energies from working their way in. Create sacred space. Yeah, I’m not a huge fan of the idea of casting circles. For my own workings, its just not something that is helpful to my own state of my mind. Yet, it’s a strong, and firmly entrenched part of Paganism, as a whole. Even the rituals I have been a part of within OBOD has this process within it. Casting a circle is a very common part of Pagan practices. Except in mine.

To say that I feel alone in this particular area of thought is – in my mind – a deep understatement. I have yet to meet another Pagan that works their rituals in this manner. I have been told by others that essentially, I am working ritual without a safety net. That without such barriers, my rituals will lack focus and intention. That I will not be able to properly focus my magickal intentions, which will diffuse into the beyond, and have no focal power to brandish. When I would point out that my rituals were not meant to work magicks, thus I wouldn’t be too worried about much of those thoughts – I was asked “why do rituals in the first place?”

Many, many times this line of discussion has kicked off pointed lecture after pointed lecture aimed at me. Why ritual is important this way. Why casting a circle is a necessity. Why I’m doing this wrong. Why I’m doing that wrong. Why I’m a bad Pagan. I’ve spent a lot of years listening to statements like that. And countless hours trying to explain my perspective to ears that didn’t want to hear it. Enough that I’ve rarely spoken about my own approach to ritual over the past decade. Instead, I’ve just gone and done my own thing.

Honestly, its not been easy doing things on my own, utilizing an approach that I’ve always noted as being completely different than everyone else. It also stands as one of the primary reasons that I approach my own Paganism and Druidry without a group. I manage by using what works for me, without assuming that what I do works for any single person beyond myself. I don’t do things in ritual just because “everyone else does.” I do things in ritual because it works for me. Nor would I be presumptuous enough to stamp my foot and demand that things be done my way when I am working within a group. I always defer to what is more well understood by others in a group setting. When working in a group, its not about me. Its about the group gelling and working cohesively together.

Why no circle casting in my solo work? Well, to understand that, its best to first discuss why casting a circle is looked at as a necessity. Now, most of this is what I have gleaned through the various traditions and belief systems I have worked within and with – its not an exhaustive look at things. Rather, its what I know of within my memory. As I’ve said before, I’m not an expert on anything – except myself. Now, circles are cast to create sacred space – a point that exists between worlds, where magick can be done, rituals can be held, etc etc. Many believe this to be a physical barrier that separates our mundane world from the magickal. This barrier is set to create a safe place for participants to gather, for magick to be done – where the pains and negativity of the mundane world are removed. In my mind, this sacred space is an area of null value. Null being an area of nothing, where negative, positive, emotions, and such do not exist. This concept does not work for me.

I don’t cast or create sacred space because I hold that everywhere around me is already sacred space. I don’t need to cleanse it. I don’t need to define it. Its here. Its all around me. From the concrete jungles that mankind has created to the manicured suburban sprawl we all seem to live in to the wild, uncharted areas of the world – we’re already in sacred space. As for the negativity, the bad energies, the difficult emotions…all of that is a part of us. Banishing it means to deny its existence in the world around us. I don’t wish to exclude anything from my environment. Good, bad, indifferent…its all part of sacred space, in my mind. Instead of seeing a barrier outside of my ritual, I see a glowing sphere emanating outwards from my rituals. This is not a barrier, but rather the extent of my magickal working – the energy I am creating at that moment. Its not banishing anything. It co-mingles. It exists within this wide-open sacred space. Its literally my connection with the world around me.

Some traditions and belief systems call the Quarters or the Watch-Towers, setting wards and protections against the negative world about us. They ask for Spirits or Entities to watch over the ritual. I do something similar, except that I ask for the Spirits of the Wild, the Spirits of Place, my Spirits of Ancestors, and the Gods to come to witness the rite, should They choose to do so. All of Them are a part of my environment around me, so I don’t expect any of Them to come forward. But I do offer the invite…and not as Guardians or Protectors…merely spectators or witnesses. I don’t ever expect myself and my ritual to be the focal point of Their attention at that moment. I merely ask, and never for protection. Just to be there to see it occur.

I am told that by doing this, I am leaving myself open to the negative spirits of the world. That, in essence, I am operating without protection…working without a safety net. My response may seem a little flippant or even feel like I am challenging Fate: that negativity, those meddlesome Spirits…that’s all part of the world around us. To exclude that is to deny the whole aspect of where and what we live within. At least, in my opinion. I am not one to parcel my world into pieces, and then choose which I want to be in my daily life.

I completely grok the point that I may be working without a safety net by not casting circles or calling the Quarters or what have you. But I am not a proponent of putting barriers between myself and that which I see as sacred. Even when that sacred space is affected with pollution, negativity, anger, and all else that is considered as “bad.” The pollution, negativity, anger, and such are not what makes it sacred. The sacredness is deeper down. That is what I embrace by removing the barriers of circle casting and other methodologies. The sacred is underneath my feet, even when it is covered with the profane. I don’t want barriers between myself and that which I perceive as true sacred space. Thus, I work without that “safety net.” And in so doing, I get the lectures that I have gotten in the past. All well-meant. But, in my mind, unnecessary.

Paganism is Lived and Experienced

I read a lot of blogs over the course of the day, week, year… I rarely comment because either the individual who wrote the blog said things so concisely that I cannot find anything to add, or I disagree so much that it would sound more like I was complaining than providing a constructive point. On the last day of the year, over on the Druid’s Well, Catriona McDonald published the post “Thoughts at the Twilight of the Year.” This post brought a single point that rung completely true for me. In talking about the book “Sand Talk” by Tyson Yunkaporta, McDonald makes the following point:

Yunkaporta notes that becoming an agent at the center of a complex system isn’t in and of itself a terrible thing. It’s ok to be a strange center around which something can crystallize. But you then have to be able to step away and let the process continue however it needs to, with or without you.

And I think that is the danger of esoteric “projects”. In our culture, ownership is second nature. How do we let go of power and prestige to give these sorts of endeavors life of their own within their communities? It is so easy to make something “mine” instead of “ours”. As a friend and mentor so beautifully and gently put it to me once, “This isn’t your grove. This isn’t my grove. The grove is its own thing [being]. It belongs to all of us, we all bring our best to share.” It was a sorely needed ego check, and I’m so very, very grateful for this wisdom. I’ll always be afraid that I’ll lose sight of the “us”, even if it’s from the best of intentions. I need to trust that “us” will keep us all honest. Even when it means grappling with scary things.

Catriona McDonald, “Thoughts at the Twilight of the Year”

I have talked about leadership and such before. I have my own reasons for refusing to take up a mantle of leadership, in any sense of the word. Its not a Path I want my footfalls to be on. At best, I walk beside that Path, not on it. What I seem to be far better at, is helping people down their own Path. I’m not nudging them in directions I want them to go. I listen, I ask questions when I need to…and then I become a cheerleader for their progress and process. I’m trying to light that Awen within themselves…kindle that fire of self-inspiration that will help them move forward. I’m not here to fill their heads of how Magick and ritual work because of the way that I do it. I’m not here to explain how to be good little Pagans, Druids, Witches or what have you, by following what I do. I want them to follow what calls to them, as individuals. To find their inspiration to where it calls them. To explore. To be willing to make mistakes and learn from all of that.

But there’s so much more to glean from McDonald’s comments. As she noted, her friend and mentor made the point that the grove is its own being. That the grove is alive in its own unique way because of the people that are there, not because of a single individual. I’ve watched this first-hand at the Gulf Coast Gatherings I have attended. The opening, main, and closing rituals live and breathe with its participants. The initiation ceremonies have their own cadence fed from the expectant, nervous energies. The discussions that happen all over the camp outside of those ceremonial times can encompass anything from catching up on family news and goings-on to discussions on nearly any other subject. Remove a single individual from all of that, and the energies of the Gathering changes. Somewhat slightly, but its noticeable. I’m a solo Druid, red-cup variety if you will, so I can’t speak to the energies of a grove, but I do understand what McDonald’s mentor is noting here. Any group or gathering has its own collective energy, its own individual identity.

What makes Paganism, well…Paganism? Or Druidry for that matter? Or Wicca? Or whatever else you can toss into the mix? Its all the people. Our collective and constantly mingling energies. Our collective inspiration to be there for each other. Why do I attend initiations of various Pagans, even those that I don’t know all that well? Because I want to add my own happiness at their first steps on this new Path for them. Because I remember my own nervous energies during my own various initiations, and how the calming energies of others that were there was so serene, and so very necessary.

Not that long ago (December 28th to be exact), I had another Pagan tell me that I needed to do a particular thing in my practice to be an authentic Pagan. I posted my response to that statement on Facebook.

Uhm….no. What I need to be doing in my Pagan “practice” is what connects me to the Gods, my environment, and myself. If [this] happens to be helpful, then yes – I should be doing that. If it’s not, then I don’t need to be wasting time and energy on that and shift my focus to what makes those connections for me. Paganism is not some prescribed set of instructions that everyone follows until it becomes rote muscle memory. Paganism is meant to be lived and experienced (solely my opinion there).

People ask me what I believe Paganism is…my answer winds up somewhere along these lines. I’m not talking about what Gods you follow. I’m not talking about which of the many Paths in Paganism you choose to follow. It doesn’t matter if you do things on your own or in a group. Paganism is how it works for you, how you live it, how it connects you to everything else in this world – and even beyond. I can’t – and won’t – tell you how to do that. I can tell you and show you how I manage it. But that works for me, not necessarily for you. I connect by walking, reading, cooking, sleeping, and so many other activities. For me, just breathing awakens my Paganism…and sometimes, I’m not even sure about the connection it makes. But its there. I don’t turn off my Paganism and Druidry from a spigot. It’s a part of who I am. I carry it everywhere I go.

But I also must temper my thoughts. My Paganism, my approach, it works for me. But I am not Paganism. I am not the be-all, end-all of Paganism. Far from it. Paganism is wide, its diverse, it encompasses us all. Paganism is all of us. We all make Paganism what it is. It shrinks with the passing of our Elders. It shrinks when people leave it because it no longer speaks to them. It grows with each new person entering this Path. Its alive because of us. We may bicker and argue over issues like rituals, the appropriate approach to a particular God or Goddess, or even which Path is better. But welcome to humanity over all of that. Forever and a day, human beings have believed that their way is the only way, only to find out within the annuals of our collective history that its not really the case.

We’re Pagans. I am proud of that. We exist because we believe the way that we do. Our approach to daily life is as wide and varied as our Paths. But we follow this Path because it works for us. Whether you have been here longer than I have (which many, many of you have), or are just starting out…its your Path, and just as valid as anyone else’s.

Yes, our Paganism is lived and experienced, but as McDonald’s mentor points out – its not mine, yours, or anyone else’s. Paganism is us. Whether you are in a group or work your thing alone, we’re all a part of us. I, for one, am proud of my Path.

–Tommy /|\

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

You’ve Got This – You Really Do

2021 was one ride I didn’t really want to be on. My year started off showing me a dead-end I had been traveling. So, there was a bit of back-tracking that had to be done. Its never a great thing to be wrong, especially over a life choice – but that does happen. It’s a part of living life. The rest of the year was spent trying to unravel lots of things to get stuff back on-track. That eventually took place, and the end of the year was better than the start. But I’m glad to place 2021 into the rear-view mirror, and 2020 into the distant past. That’s about as much of a review of the year that I care to give. I’m still focused on moving forward, one single step at a time.

I spent the last posts of the calendar year looking ahead, into the future. I did this without tarot cards, runes, and what-not. Instead, I just did what data analysis has shown me to do – look at trends, cycles, data, and attempt to see where things go. It’s a terrible way to predict the future, but it was fun to look at the wider aspect of Paganism in a way I normally don’t. My usually tack in the wind is to focus on my own steps, not investigate the Path of others.

All of that brings me back to a basic point, which lays the foundation of my daily Path. I had a Pagan individual make the following statement to me.

You should be doing [this] in your Pagan practice if you want to be an authentic Pagan.

Well, it got my hackles up rather quickly. There’s one thing I don’t do is have others dictate to me what my Path will or will not be. After all, I’m the stiff that walks this Path daily, and I’ve been doing it long enough to know what my footfalls should be. Once I let my blood pressure lower, I responded back (gently) by explaining that my approach is one of connection. My daily “practice” (I really need to find a better word than this) provides me with the connection I need to my environment, myself, and my Gods. If what the individual was claiming to be “necessary” to be an “authentic Pagan” (whatever the fuck that might mean) brought meaning and use to my approach, I would surely adopt it into my daily Path. If this new approach, technique or whatever did not do that – I didn’t need to be wasting my time, energy, and effort on it. Really, its as simple as that.

For instance, I dabbled at tarot over the last year. I was hoping to find a divinatory process that might be useful for me. As it wound up, the cards are pretty and all, but the divinatory meaning that came up meant nothing to me. Thus, I do not do tarot any longer.

What then, does my Paganism bring to my life? Well, it’s a part of my life. My daily walk in life is informed by it. The Wheel of the Year provides me a basis to work from on ritualistic connection to the time of Year, the land around me, and my environment. My rituals – unorthodox as they may be – provide deeper context to my environment, as well as to myself. My spiritual beliefs help guide me through a daily existence by connecting me with the Gods. My primary focus is the betterment of my connections to the Divine, but I also try to practice kindness to all in every step and each breath I take. Life is not just about me. There are others that we all touch daily in our walk. How we interact with others matters – not just to ourselves, but also to them.

There will be others who will be saying to themselves now: “That’s not my Paganism. That’s not my [insert belief system here].” Not only will that statement be true, but it will also help to shape the directional aspect of their own Paganism. Your Spiritual Path is not some rote system of memory, which everyone else must aspire to – so they can be an “authentic Pagan” in your eyes. Everyone’s approach will be different. What they get out of their own Spiritual approach will be different. They are authentic Pagans because they follow what’s in their heart, what calls to their soul, what provides meaning to their own existence…whatever that may look like. I’m not the judge of what is or is not Paganism in the heart of someone else. Nor would I ever accept such a position. I’m an authority on me…not others.

Paganism, from my perspective, is something that is lived. It can be as mundane as lighting a few candles in your living room and performing a simple ritual to acknowledge the time of the year. It can be as elaborate as leading a large group of people in a complex ritual outdoors, designed to provide an ecstatic moment for all who attend. It can be anything in between that – and even beyond. Living what’s in your heart, reaching out to the Gods (if that’s your thing), experiencing the Wheel of the Year with your mind open and aware in every moment of a single cycle…to me, that’s living your Paganism. And Paganism is meant to be lived, in whatever manner you feel that connects you.

That’s my own personal perspective. All of that might be confusing to you, the reader. I grok that. I’m not always the most lucid in the world when trying to explain where my thoughts are. However, I do the best that I can. I make mistakes, just like any other person. After all, I’m a part of that difficult to predict data set, humans. 😊So, if you’re looking for advice (and don’t just take mine – find other Pagans and ask them) on how to handle your own approach to Paganism and whatever Spiritual belief system you ascribe to – all I can give to you is to be true to your own self. Try things. Explore. See if it works for you. If it doesn’t, set it down, and move on. There’s plenty of other options to try. Don’t be afraid to remake things in whatever fashion works best for you. After all, its YOUR approach to your own Spiritual Path. You know what works for you and what doesn’t. But to get to that point of knowledge, you must try. And try with full effort. And don’t worry, you’ve got this. Even if you feel that you don’t. You’ll find later down the line – that you really do.

–Tommy /|\

Photo by Lum3n on Pexels.com

Thinking About: Seasons Will Pass You By

Well, we all managed to make it to the end of another calendar year. Much like the previous year, this year has had its share of challenges. While those difficulties have been rough and tumble, we’ve all learned from each struggle and managed to continue. Certainly, we will see more struggles going into the future. More challenges that place us on the edge. But we will also have happy moments. We will have triumphs that equal – and surpass – the energy and emotions of our tragedies. That’s all a part of the constant cycle of life. Many will see this as an example of the metaphor for “circling the drain.” I see it more as a long trail up the mountain. As we climb higher, the climb gets more difficult in places. However, if we stop every so often, and turn around, we can enjoy the gorgeous view – and reflect on how much we have persevered to get to this point. As well as look up to the mountain’s pinnacle and realize there’s more to climb. We all climb the mountain for different reasons. Each of those reasons are personal and varied. Each are just as valid as the next person’s.

I have been taking some views towards the future of our collective Paganism over the past few posts. Today’s post will mark the end of that grouping of posts. I have had a lot of fun writing these posts. I’m not trying to predict the future of our collective Paganism. I’m not arrogant enough to believe that I have any measure of the pulse of what is to come. I can see the trends of the past, and attempt to predict what might happen. But as I have noted before, the troublesome data set remains the human beings. Human beings can defy logical reasoning and make choices that are antithetical to a reasoned trend. Human beings remain the unpredictable factor to a coming future.

Our collective Paganism will most certainly continue on into what is certainly an unpredictable future. What shape it takes, what ritual aspects it continues to observe…all of that is to be determined by the younger Pagans, as I have noted before. This could all look exactly the same or so radically different that those of us within Paganism barely recognize what it has become. Or it would be somewhere in-between. My bet is for somewhere in-between. But its not for me to decide that future. My chance for growing Paganism came during the late 1980s and early 1990s – and followed through to where we are today. I had a hand in that, as did all the Pagans of my generation. The coming future is not ours to design, move forward, and expand upon. That belongs to our younger Pagans, some of whom are my age. That’s right. I am fifty-(mumble-mumble). I’ve been on my Pagan Path since 1986. I was twenty when I took my first steps. Later that year, I turned twenty-one. But there are Pagans just taking their first steps on their own Pagan Path that are my age. Some even older. Their “new” eyes will help initially set the future in motion.

A future built on the stage we currently stand on. A stage built on the past of other Pagans. A stage built on the memories of Pagans who had a grand vision of the future that probably never approached their dreamed of future. That’s because the future was built by others who expanded on those visions with their own desires of what Paganism should become. Those also had a grand vision of what Paganism might become. Their younger generation steered that vision as it applied to their younger dreams. That cycle continues to this day and on into the future.

When I was in my younger years of Paganism, there were dreams of Pagan temples honoring the Gods standing side-by-side on city blocks with churches and in suburban sprawl like the current churches that litter our neighborhoods. There were dreams of an acceptance of Paganism and exultation of the acceptance of this wider belief system in the public world-wide. Neither of those dreams have been realized to any full extent. I sincerely doubt that these ever will come to fruition. While I still see seeds of this “need for wider acceptance”, the coming of Pagan beliefs manifested within an individual rather than a group has quietly extinguished much of that flame. For the most part, these solo Pagans (commonly referred to as “Solitaires” – a phrasing I personally eschew) are not trying to develop a Paganism that has buildings, temples, groves, and such readily available on every corner. Seemingly, they do not wish to create spaces with neo-signs standing out front, advertising the existence of such locations. Most solo Pagans I have encountered are quite content in seeing the entire world as their temple. From skyscrapers in the vast concrete jungles to the wide-open prairie lands to anywhere else. The truest temple we have is the world around us, according to this perspective. Honestly, it’s a perspective that I do ascribe to, so there is a strong degree of bias in what I write here.

With a current that skews far stronger towards that of the solo Pagan than to the Pagan group perspective, is this a future that I see rising? A Paganism where the group flavor diminishes? Where the dreams of established sanctuaries, temples, and groups do not come to fruition? I’d be a complete fool to say yes. Not only is the future impossible to predict, but established locations have already happened. Take, as a singular example, Circle Sanctuary. They exist. They thrive. If you are looking for a blueprint to work from – there it is. As with any blueprint, its model can be altered accordingly. What’s necessary for that model to thrive? Well, I’m not one-hundred percent sure, but I would imagine that it comes down to a core group of people that whole-heartedly believe in that vision. People willing to place their entire soul into the creation, maintenance, and growth of such an idea. Thus, I would never rule such an aspect out of the future. There definitely are those people out there. And despite what an analytical trend might say, they most certainly ARE a part of the future. That’s not hard to believe in. That’s not hard to see. What is difficult to ascertain is the size of their significance in that future. They will exist, regardless. They currently exist. The truer debate comes to the degree of their existence.

A few have asked what references and sources I have to back up my assertions. Aside from personal observance – none. I’m not some theological nerd who studies every aspect of theological perspective. I can barely talk the talk of a theologian. I have no studies in my background – other than the studies of Catholic theology and theory that were hammered into my head during my high school years. But to be fair, I’m not claiming to be “right” here. I’m looking at everything for a prospective of discussion. I’m not telling you that this concept of the future that I am writing is a “definite” thing. Merely that this is what I am observing and relating in these blog posts. I claim no stranglehold on the truth. I do not have the truth tied up and laying at my feet, eviscerated for the whole world to perform their own autopsies upon. I’m just me. One simple Polytheist Pagan Druid, just trying to make my way through life the best that I can. Just trying to draw up a touch of discussion on the idea of the future, even if that happens out of my eyesight and hearing. Nothing more.

To quote Yes’ “Close to the Edge”:

Close to the edge, down by the river
Down at the end, round by the corner
Seasons will pass you by,
Now that it’s all over and done,
Called to the seed, right to the sun
Now that you find, now that you’re whole
Seasons will pass you by,
I get up, I get down
I get up, I get down
I get up, I get down
I get up

Yes, “Close to the Edge”

Indeed, the seasons do pass us by. We observe them every year through the cycle of the Wheel of the Year. We use our rituals to mark the passing of time. We learn from the Past; we observe where we are in the Present. We don’t always talk about the Future, until the Veil thins or the physical calendar of the Year prepares to change (as I am doing here with these blog posts). Perhaps, we need to be more open about our Future throughout the Year? We cannot completely control our collective Future, but we can influence it to one degree or another. Do we want or need public temples? Is our collective Paganism going to move completely towards a solo perspective? Is the aspect of groups rising or waning? Or are we currently in the downside or upside of a cultural cycle within Paganism itself? Is this dynamic power-struggle between solo Pagans and Group-oriented Pagans a waxing/waning shift that continually occurs from our collective Past into our Present, and further on into our Future? Well, the “seasons will pass us by” …but I think these questions will wax and wane into the future…. only the continual slow roll of Time will truly tell. I, for one, am excited by the future that our younger generation of Pagans will bring forward. Likely, I will not be alive in this incarnation to see this – but I am excited by their dynamic energy, and their innovative manner of thinking. I hope I get to see just a glimpse of it all…just a glimmer. One day….

–Tommy /|\

Photo by Simon Berger on Pexels.com

Thinking About: I Want All Of It To Happen Again

I’ve talked a lot about how I see the short-term future for the split dynamic of group v. solo within Paganism. I’m not really trying to predict the future with these posts. Rather, I am looking to discuss some of the trends I have noticed over the past few years and draw potential conclusions. I present all of that here, as my own observations. Observations. Nothing more than that. I have noted in the previous posts that the data set that I am working with is human beings. Human beings, who can completely change perspective, actions, understandings, perceptions, and make wildly varied choices on a whim. Attempting to predict any of that is akin to predicting National Football League games and bet against the Las Vegas gambling spread. There are so many moving variables in play, that accurate forecasting of any sort of behavior can certainly be deemed as “folly” at its very best.

The direction I am about to take is on even more fraught ground. I want to discuss Pagan community and public events, especially against the backdrop of today’s COVID environment. We are now entering our third year with this virus. A virus which is not only deadly but can also have extremely acute repercussions to the health of those that survive it. It is very understandable why so many public and private Pagan gatherings have cancelled or re-scheduled during that time frame. Now, with the new Omicron variant being far easier to contract, as well as its apparent brushing aside of the protections from vaccines, boosters, and the cloth masks that we have all used for so long – well, you get the picture. Seemingly, we’re headed towards even more lockdowns, government regulations, and a rising tide of individuals headed for hospitalization, where wards are still crowded with patients from the previous wave. All that plays into where we are today.

But even before this viral outbreak, Pagan events seemed to be on shaky ground, especially the conventions. Probably the biggest convention name to pull out of yearly events was Pantheacon. I’ve been three times (three years in a row). Held over a weekend in a hotel near the San Jose airport, it was a widely attended convention. A nice cross-section of the Pagan community could be found there. Many authors and other widely known Pagans came in and gave talks (usually more than one) on so many topics. Pagan musicians would play little mini-concerts, and many Pagans and groups held very elaborate (and well attended) public rituals. The year after my last time there, Pantheacon announced that it would be their last, citing rising costs, lowered numbers of volunteers to help run the event, and burn-out by its core group of people as the primary reasons for shuttering the event. I have watched various smaller annual events in my own region pull back for similar reasons, as well as COVID. Many public rituals have cancelled or rescheduled their commitments, much to the disappointment of many Pagan-folk that were willing to attend the events under strict COVID protocols.

Many events and conferences have turned to an online format to handle their scheduling. Seemingly, this has worked well, though I can’t honestly say that I am aware of it being good or bad. I have yet to attend a single event held in this online format. So, I can’t really judge what its like. However, I know that this type of format doesn’t quench my need for the face-to-face interaction with others that I have encountered with others. I have attended a few online professional conferences, which were created to handle the same issues concerning COVID that the Pagan conferences and events have dealt with. I can honestly say, the networking side of things – one of the primary, unspoken functions of those professional conferences – is just not there. I imagine the same can be said for the online formats for Pagan conferences, rituals, and such.

What shape do Pagan functions take going into the future? This is hard to pin down. I can see many of the Pagan conferences headed to the online route. The online format can be pricey, but not nearly as pricey as running a conference that essentially takes over an entire hotel. That format seems likely to expand and be much larger going into the future. What about Pagan Pride Day events and other similar functions such as Witchstocks, Witchfests, and what not? As I noted, this is harder to pin down. Much of these “festivals” are geared around sales by various vendors. If Pagans decided to not attend these events because of COVID, that would drive down the sales of the vendors – much of whom drive the presence of such events. No attendance would essentially shutter such events. If COVID were to persist beyond where we are at now, as a collective society, I can see many of these events shuttering on a permanent basis. Let me be perfectly frank here, if our collective Pagan community stopped purchasing items from Pagan vendors – there would be far fewer Pagan vendors available. I really hate to tout the power of currency to keep a public aspect of the wider community alive – but its true. If our collective communities embrace online events in favor of other delivery methods, we are also going to need to embrace the online presence of those selling items to the Pagan community.

What about the public rituals that get held in various locations, including – but not limited to – Unitarian churches? Here, I see the potential for large, unlimited growth – particularly if the larger public rituals and events change their attendance aspects in favor of online. I think you might see small Pagan events being held at such smaller locations – with some of these events limiting the number of participants to stay within prescribed COVID limitations as set by federal organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Yes, I believe that Paganism will remain far decentralized when it comes to public events. At least, that’s the tea leaves as I read them.

As I noted, this area of the Pagan community is difficult to read, simply because human beings are involved. With COVID spiraling the way that it currently is, I can feel the Pagan Community having to find new online avenues to reconnect with one another – even if we live only a few blocks or miles apart. After all, we have families and ourselves to protect with this virus spreading its havoc. I’m not sure if anyone else finds this “forced” online interaction methodology to be inadequate, but I do. I find it limiting, and it feels quite impersonal. Yes, that’s an odd statement from someone who makes his living within Information Technology. But it certainly is how I feel. I crave that face-to-face interaction. Seeing people’s smiles. Hearing the inflection in their voices. The feel of their touch as we talk, laugh, and enjoy one another’s company. To me, that’s not just the future. It’s the present as well. It’s the past. I miss the interactions at Pantheacon. The giant bear hug I got from Kristoffer Hughes when I was headed to the airport for my flight back. The handshakes and hugs I got from all the OBOD members at the last Gulf Coast Gathering, as we all got ready to leave Louisiana and head back to our respective homes. Those moments were the pinnacle of those events. I sincerely hope that we get back to all of that soon. In the meantime, we must stay safe. So, all of that can happen again.

–Tommy /|\

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Thinking About: Two Quid Into the Pot For Pagan Future

I sit here drinking coffee and eating muffins on a quiet, and dark Yule morning. The house is quiet. I’m the only one awake. The little furry children are dozing in their respective hiding places. I am spending the morning with the lightning riffs of Yngwie J. Malmsteen being pushed through the speakers of my headphones, a distinct memory from the late 1980s.

I have spent the past few blog posts looking at what I perceive to be some of the future of our collective Paganism. Much of that has been spent comparing the group versus solo rift that has existed within Paganism for as long as I have been on this path – and has existed long before my entry-point within our collective History. I touched a bit on the two extreme edges of Pagan thought in Reconstructionist perspective and Eclecticism, as well as some of the controversy in gender inclusivity, and the ongoing debate on what constitutes a Pagan. Simply put, the wider Pagan community has its share of issues to deal with going into the future. All of which, dare I note, will play great roles in shaping the Paganism of the future. A Paganism that I more than realize I will never recognize from the Paganism I am a part of today. But its also a Paganism that is not mine to shape beyond my time here.

It is somewhat strange to realize that all that I write here, all that I do within my community, my mere existence here – all of that will have only a small wrinkle going into the future. The Paganism that I am part of right now is vastly different from the Paganism I started with. The younger Pagans of the 1990s have helped to shape what I consider to be a “freer”, more diverse Paganism with their efforts to explore, alter, and expand thought. Those changes have re-ignited the debate over eclectic thought versus what is considered traditional Paganism today. Not that long ago, these traditionalist Pagans were considered the eclectic ones versus what was traditional Paganism then. I would posit that the same cycle will continue going into the future. Adding to that circle will be those new Pagans that seek to practice Paganism as “it was.” Another cycle that will carry forward into our collective future.

I have always been horrible at forecasting the future. Tarot? Nice distraction for me, but being able to predict anything with any degree of certainty? Well, pardon the pun, that’s not in the cards for me. My mundane life is in data analytics. Even within this industry, there is a level of prognostication that is expected. As if, the people who comprise this small arena of data reporting are modern-day fortune-tellers. Those of us in this part of the wider corporate industry are not. We analyze trends and predict the marketplace for commercial sales based on past histories, current trends, and other social markers. Frequently, those predictions are wrong. Because consumer habits are unpredictable. The same holds true for predicting where a religious belief system will go. Because people can make choices and choose not to continue with a trend. And that choice can be a sudden one-hundred-and-eighty degree turn that happens at any given moment.

The Pew Research Center has a trend analysis that depicts the overall percentage of people in the United States has been continually decreasing throughout the last decade or so. Where are these people going? Into a bucket entitled “religiously unaffiliated.” These folks aren’t leaving their faith, they seem to be leaving the constructs designed around their faith. Instead of having preachers, priests, and what-not as the middleman of their faith, they are choosing to approach divinity on their own. Sound familiar? We’ve already seen that happen here within our collective Paganism. The rise of solo, eclectic Pagans that are taking what they have learned (well, not all of them) in groups, and striking out on their own. A direction that I applaud, but only because a large part of what I do falls into this category. However, that doesn’t make it the “right move” for everyone.

But this group versus solo perspective will have its backlash. A move away from fundamentalist perspectives always contains a backlash from the fundamentalist perspective. Another symptom we’ve already seen in our Pagan communities. Not just recently, but even back in the late 1970s. Pagans who went it alone being presented as “crazy,” “unhinged,” or “not sound with the basics of [x tradition]’s practices.” Looking through history, you will find all kinds of backlash when people choose to make changes to their own fundamental principles of belief – choosing to remove the power structures and hierarchies that they perceive to hold them back from finding their own expression of worship, adoration, or ritual to the Gods they approach.

Again, I point out that most of my own personal belief falls into this realm. But, in no way am I advocating that the aspects of group work are bad or stunt the necessary growth of the members that are reaching out for new expressions of their beliefs through whatever means. Group work has always been one of the very best ways to learn the necessities to ritual, spell work and so many other aspects of Paganism. I will be one of the first to step forward and note that learning the basics is a necessary aspect to making ANY Spiritual perspective work for you. I know…that sounds weird coming from a solo, eclectic Pagan who does things his own way. But everything I do in my Paganism has a foundation that goes back to the basics. Everything I add to my Paganism starts with the basics of what I am adding becoming part of that foundation.

As I have said, our collective Paganism continues to grow and change. The future of Paganism doesn’t belong to an old fart like me. It belongs to the younger Pagans. The twenty-somethings. My goal isn’t to change Paganism. I’ve already had my hand in doing that. My goal is to help the younger Pagans with the concepts of what is fundamental now, provided they wish to listen. Not force them to see this or that as concrete principles of Paganism. To be honest, everything about Paganism can be up for grabs in the process of change. Remember, the future of Paganism is in their hands.

Have you ever thought about a Paganism where everyone meets online? Its already here – thanks to COVID. Many face-to-face rituals and events have abandoned that face-to-face format in favor of meeting online. Has that changed paganism? Has that altered our connections with our Gods? Has it changed the relevance of today’s paganism going forward? All good questions. None of the answers for these are truly going to come from all of us older Pagans. We will have input, but remember – sooner or later, we all pass beyond the Veil. The future generations will grapple with these choices, bending and shaping our Paganism into their own. Good or bad, depending on the opinion of others.

Do I hope that the future of Paganism leaves a Paganism that I recognize, a Paganism that remains the same as it is now? Certainly, I do. That’s my own selfishness stepping forward to claim that desire. The reality will be different. That may be the only certainty that I can continue to grasp as an immutable truth. Based solely on the fact that they are not me, and I am not them. Of course, I do have to step back and point to my shitty track record of predicting the future. 😊 After all, I’m not perfect, and I have no stranglehold on the truth or the future. Just two quid into the pot….

–Tommy /|\

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