Watching – People, Sunrises, and Sunsets…

So I am back from the fourth straight day of touring the Disney theme parks here in Orlando, Florida. Parts of it have been fun – parts of it have not. The next two days will be spent at a location that I added to this trip.  If I was going to Disney for four days, we were all going to Cape Canaveral and Kennedy Space Center for two days. But – that’s for a later post.  Let’s stick with Disney for the moment.

Spirits of the Land

As I stated in my last post, its really rough getting the attention of the Spirits of the Land around this year – much less even feeling out where they must be. Just a few short days around here – and its fairly obvious why. The teeming mass of humanity, all uber-focused on their own needs and gratification, leaves very little room for anything in the arena of caring about or or the land. This small and highly concentrated mass of amplified consumerism can take its toll on even the most balanced of individuals. I know it has done so to me. Sitting here at my laptop, I feel so disconnected to the world around me here. Almost as if the Disney theme parks become a suspension of that connection I feel to my environment. Or perhaps that this environment is so antithetical to the environment that I have nurtured and cultivated back in Texas – that it is difficult for me to find enough similarities between the connective measures to be of any use.

Observations on Parenting Inside Disney Theme Parks

I am, admittedly, a people watcher. I observe behaviors of all types in many people. And Disney made for some interesting watching. As I noted in my previous post, there were many examples of rampant gimme-gimme consumerism on display throughout the various gift shops on the parks. However, there were also displays of parents that were at their wits-end with their small children. Perhaps the most horrific scene came tonight as we made our way out off Epcot. Just outside the Mexico Pavilion in the World Showcase, we stumbled across a stroller that was stopped with the mother kneeling in front of the stroller and face-to-face with the small boy sitting inside of it. “You do not tell me that I cannot hit you on the top of the head when you are acting up! I am responsible for your actions! If I want to hit you on the head, I can do that anytime I like!” A young man bending over at one side of the stroller told the young lad in an equally stern voice: “…if I want to smash your face in, I can do that whenever I feel like it.” The woman added: “Yes, he can. Your uncle can do that anytime he likes! Now stop crying!”

Its been a long time I was single digits in age, but if I had two adults yelling at me like that in public, while strangers openly gawked and watched in horror – I would likely be crying as well. Thankfully, none of us had to get involved, as two Park Security folks quickly approached the little group and escorted them over to a sitting alcove for a little discussion. But this was evident in many other places as well, where hot, tired, and hungry children acted out – and hot, tired, hungry, and frustrated parents lashed back in some semblance of anger.

Now, I am not a judge of individual character – because I am only making observations here – not trying to determine whether these parents were fit or not in their actions. And I cannot say for certain what I would or would not have done if I were in their roles. But it was certainly obvious that the hot temperatures and a lack of proper hydration played significant factors throughout these scenarios.

Sunrise at Last!

epcot-sunsetThis morning was the first sunrise I managed to be awake for. It was a bit of a let-down though – because so many condos are in the way of seeing the sun coming up over the horizon. However, I got to sit back and watch the sky slowly melt from dark into a creamy eggshell white (there was cloud cover too) with touches of pink salmon, and egg-yolk yellow peeking through various little holes in the cover. Sunset was no less spectacular. In Texas, I am used to seeing a dark, blood-orange blob slowly drop beneath the western horizon. However, while at Epcot and headed back to the car, we watched the bright-yellow, hazy blob dip down behind the tree-line, and eventually slip beneath the curve of the earth – allowing the darkness to come forward. Not nearly as dramatic as the view I have from my front door…but beautiful in many different ways.

 

Summer Solstice at Disney…Sort Of…

EpcotIt is the day after the Summer Solstice…and its still a very odd feeling. Up an hour earlier than I normally am – and I still don’t beat the rising Sun to the punch. That’s right – I am not in Texas now.  In fact, I am one time zone ahead of what I am used to. I am in Florida. Last year around this time, I was up in the northern tier of the Rockies and close to the Canada border. This year, I am visiting Mickey Mouse and company, along with a side trip to Cape Canaveral to see the Space Shuttle there. So far, the trip has proved to be interesting on a lot of levels.

Time Zones and New Spirits of the Land

The change in time zones has been a little rougher than I expected. Last year, I dropped back a time zone in Montana, so getting up for the rising sun was no problem at all. But moving forward a time zone has been really rough. In the three days I have been in Florida, I have yet to be up with the rising sun. Changing time zones can be easy – changing one’s internal clock can be rough. Twice, I have spent an evening on the back porch doing a daily meditation, and trying to connect with the Spirits of the Land – and neither time have I felt that successful connection. In some ways, it feels as if the Spirits here are either willfully ignoring human beings or have long gone. I know they have not gone, but it is certainly apparent that a connectivity with human beings is something that will need to be cultivated over a longer period of time than the remaining three days I will be here.

Large Concentrated Population and Consumerism

Everyone is aware of the transient population of tourists in the Orlando area – particularly now that Summer is upon us, and the schools have let out for the Summer. Our first stop here was a Walmart Supercenter for a fast grocery run and it was massive insanity. People – EVERYWHERE! And not one of them was cognizant of where they were in relation to other people. They were zoned in on themselves. The number of times I was nearly run over in the parking lot was minor compared to the number of times I dodged shopping carts inside the store. The vehicle traffic here is extremely insane as well.  Many, many people turning into lanes without looking, nearly going bumper to bumper with the car in front of them because they were not paying attention. Much of this traffic makes me nearly as nervous as when I drive in downtown Dallas traffic during rush-hour. But the large, concentrated mass of people is nothing compared to the rampant consumerism that I have witnessed throughout the trip.

Now, I am not trying to complain about the cost of a trip to Disney – I knew that going in. I knew that food prices inside and outside the theme parks would be elevated to a severe degree. Souvenirs are a part of the overall experience as well – even I have bought some (two enamel pins of Mickey’s head in England and Germany flag patterns). But its the sheer volume of other stuff that surprises me. In the various stores, nearly anything that can possible have a Disney image attached to it is there. I understand and comprehend the ideas of Capitalism, but its the people snapping up the items that had me scratching my head. Like I said, I bought two enamel pins – $10 each. The lady in front of me had dozens of t-shirts, several coffee mugs, more pins than I could count, and a pair of those iconic Mickey Mouse ears. I could not help but see her total – $375. I am all in favor of purchasing something to commemorate my trip here to Orlando and the Disney theme parks – a place that I am unlikely to have a desire to come back to again – but a few items would be enough for me. Now, perhaps I am judging unfairly here. Perhaps each of those items are for family members who did not get to make the trip – I still have difficulty justifying nearly four-hundred dollars in purchases such as that. Again, perhaps that’s just me…

I saw a lot more that “gimme-gimme” attitude throughout the Park today as well. A few children bugging and whining at their parents for this toy or that really cool thing. But I also saw that on a lot of the adults there too. People seeing something that looked “cool” or “interesting” and snapping it up without a second thought and heading towards the checkout stand. Later, outside the various stores, I would see the same adults walk through crowded areas without a second thought over who they walked in front of, or bumped directly into – even in walking areas that were as wide as forty feet or more. I watched many of these same people push their way into crowded lines, and reacting to the other people as if it were they who were the affronted party. People, seeking their own gratification, oblivious of how their own actions were affecting others around them.

Summer Solstice Observations

Perhaps it was very fitting that I spent my Summer Solstice day in the Animal Kingdom section of the Disney theme parks. There were many displays and little vignettes explaining the connections between animals, plants, resources, and the wasteful mannerisms of humans. There were explanations of how conservation and living with the land could be beneficial to all within the ecosystems that we inhabit. It certainly was not planned out this way in a deliberate fashion. For all of the consumerism that is affiliated with the Disney theme parks, there was a major emphasis in both Animal Kingdom and Epcot on conserving, recycling, and being good stewards of this Planet.  In one vignette today, Simba, Timon and Pumba – characters from the Lion King movies – helped educate young children about how certain actions can affect others. Timon and Pumba had dammed up the end of the water hole, so as to make a larger water hole and build a resort around it. Simba showed them what happens when the water is dammed up – how the animals affected further downstream are impacted because of their careless actions. Simba went further to showcase how mankind does similar things to the environment with disastrous effects. This causes the two to re-think their strategy and undam the waterhole, allowing the river to flow again for the animals down-stream. As we were watching this, I keep muttering to myself about showing the connections, finding how the web is weaved. Such an interesting connection in its own right – here at a time of the Summer Solstice. While I was unable to be up with the rising sun for Summer Solstice, I was aware of many connections to how humans can connect to their environment. And its the realization of those connections – in a theme park of all places – that has been rattling around in my brain for the past two days….and will likely rattle some more.

Its is nearly time for me to head off to bed – but I do certainly hope that whatever it was that you did during this time, it was enjoyable and informative. Many happy returns for you, on this Summer Solstice!!

–Tommy

Having Faith – Thoughts on Unverified Personal Gnosis

Medicine Wheel in Wyoming...one of the most magickal and alive places I have ever been.
Medicine Wheel in Wyoming…one of the most magickal and alive places I have ever been.

Its overcast, and seems to be a threat of rain in the air this morning. While I do love to see the sun, even on the hottest days in August, I do love seeing the rain and the clouds too. After all, these actually form a part of the Pattern, all that makes up our day-after-day existence within this incarnation. And before anyone asks, yes I do believe in reincarnation – and no, I cannot prove that as a fact. Its just one of those things that I take on faith.

What a strange concept – faith. Many sun and moon cycles back, whenever I heard that word, my immediate association was with Christianity. “Do you have faith – in God, in Jesus, in the Holy Spirit?” “You must trust your faith in the Lord.” I heard statements like this all the time when I was taking some steps into the Southern Baptist world in my late teens. Repeated over and over again, my mind made the association that “faith” was a Christian concept. Now, nearly thirty years forward from that time, I understand the word a little differently. Do I have faith in my Gods? Yes, I do. Do I trust my faith in those Gods? Yes, I do.

1a :  allegiance to duty or a person :  loyalty
1b (1) :  fidelity to one’s promises (2) :  sincerity of intentions
2(1) :  belief and trust in and loyalty to God (2) :  belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion
2b (1) :  firm belief in something for which there is no proof (2):  complete trust
:  something that is believed especially with strong conviction;especially :  a system of religious beliefs <the Protestant faith>

The above is the definition from the Merriam-Webster’s dictionary website. Notice that the second definition starts with a specific definition related to the Christian belief system, and then immediately follows with a more generic definition to cover all the other beliefs. I know, many folks will start hollering about ‘indoctrination’ and maybe even ‘suppression’ – and I can see the point. But I choose not to be that reactionary to something like this. I understand where this attitude to describe things in terms of the Christian belief system comes from. Besides, its just a descriptive. Getting totally into poo-flinging mode over something like this serves no productive or positive outcome.

I tend to lean towards the second definition when it comes to describing what my faith is – that firm belief in something for which I have no proof. I cannot prove to you anything about reincarnation. Much like the opponents of the theory, I find it funny that nearly everyone that attempts to trace a past life claims to be someone famous. Very rarely do you find someone that makes claims to be the reincarnated soul of someone that is not recorded in History somewhere as an individual of import. Just as a for instance – think of how many dozens of people have claimed to be the reincarnation of the infamous Aleister Crowley. Either the guy had a serious multiple personality disorder, or there’s a bunch of people trying to be something that they are not. And honestly, I can see the case for either perspective where that is concerned.

No, I can’t prove reincarnation beyond even the wispy mist of a doubt to anyone. I also cannot prove the existence of the Gods and Goddesses and the Spirits of the Land to anyone either. Nor do I feel a need to do so. I have a firm belief in these because I have experienced them. And those who doubt my experiences, frankly I am quite ok with that. John Beckett refers to this as an Unverified Personal Gnosis. In the blog post I have linked there, John describes thusly:

[Unverified Personal Gnosis, or…] UPG is first-hand religious experience. It’s what happens when a goddess or god speaks to you. It’s what happens when a Pentecostal Christian is “filled with the Holy Spirit.” It’s what happens when a dream is so real you know it’s telling you something you have to do. It’s a vision, an audition, a feeling so strong you don’t even think of questioning its authenticity. –John Beckett

From my perspective, this is an excellent descriptor. I take this a few steps further though. Not only do I not question the authenticity of my own faith – I cannot fathom how to explain parts of it to someone who has not had similar experiences. Nor do I feel the need to “defend” my beliefs to someone who doubts. There will be those who doubt – those who call me crazy or insane for what I believe. And I do “get” that perspective. The only time I have problems with all of this, is when someone gets offended when I have my doubts about their own UPG and/or experiences.

As a matter of example, five years ago I attended a family reunion of my blood relatives. For the past fifteen years, I have not been particularly close with most of my blood family. Most of them are hardcore rednecks from the backwoods of Kentucky and Ohio – and have heavy tendencies towards Evangelical Christianity – and are VERY pushy about their beliefs. Me?  I’m a very open Pagan. I feel that I have no need to hide what I believe. I just don’t push it down anyone’s throat. When asked, I provide my point of view. When scoffed at for my perspective, I smile – thank the person for allowing me to share my point of view, and move on. At the family reunion, despite my attempts to do this – it did not happen that way. My cousins pressed me heavily about my beliefs – even after I politely bowed out of the “conversation” – that is until I finally had enough of being pursued from corner to corner of the family reunion by them trying to witness to me. When I pointed out that they could no more prove their experiences than I could mine – the belligerence became even worse. One of them even told me that this was similar to Moses taking on the Pharaoh’s magicians as expressed in Chapter Eight of Exodus. The implication was obvious – but I pressed the point again, and was again rebuffed. The belligerence grew in stronger intensity, until I finally opted to take my leave of the to-day family reunion – just four hours into the first day.

The way I saw all of this, was that they were seeking a debate. That was fine, if I was seeking the same thing. I wasn’t.  I was looking for a discussion. See, I am not out to prove anything to anyone other than myself. I am not here to be a prophet of some sort, nor am I here to convert anyone to my way of thinking. If there are people who think as I do – that is fine with me. I know there are people who do not, and I have no desire to force any change on them. See, I know that I am a Pagan. I walk the Path I am on because this is my Path to walk. I have no idea where it will take me, but I am bound and determined to not only walk it, but to also experience everything that I encounter along the way. For me, its not a race. Walking this Path and experiencing everything on it is far more important than reaching or even knowing where the Path will take me. Perhaps, I am on something similar to a songline from the tradition of the Australian aborigines. In the West, thanks to the movie “Crocodile Dundee”, we know this as a ‘walkabout’.

There will be those who won’t agree with my perspective I am making in this blog post. And I am perfectly fine with that. Those individuals walk their own Paths, for their own reasons. Who am I to say they are right or wrong? Their Path is their own to walk. I cannot begrudge them their experiences in Life. To do so, would be similar to me saying that my experiences are far more important than anyone else’s. That statement is only true for me. In trying to bring this post to a close, I am reminded how many times in our recorded Histories, we – the human race – have fought deadly wars over a difference of opinion over a UPG. And that saddens me to realize that – for it means that we do not value the individual’s experiences. Instead, we – the human race – fear other experiences as potentially being valid, and believe that if that happens it would invalidate our own personal experiences. And yet, time and time again – I hear the cries of those within the smaller subsets of belief and experience who are oppressed and subjected to forced conversion or death. In my eyes, its such a shame that we embrace the ideas of freedom within the West – and cannot utilize that same aspect of freedom when it comes to UPG.

–Tommy /|\

Stems and Pieces – Celtic Research and More…

Mushroom
Mushroom

I know there’s not been a lot posted — I have a few topics rolling around in my head, but nothing that really merits a full-fledged blog post. So, it sounds like a good day to cut up some stems and pieces…

Celtic Research — so, I keep getting poked in the chest on doing more in-depth research on Lugh and on Taliesin. And it boils back to that little concept of synchronicity.  Every time I turn around, there’s something there that reminds me that this is the next Path I have been set in front of. About the deepest understanding of Celtic mythology I have is through the wonderful podcast The Celtic Myth Podshow. Gary and Ruthie have been doing the show for a long time, and I treasure every episode I have from them. Sadly, its the closest I have come to the Celtic myths – aside from Morgan Llywelyn‘s fiction books. So I am being prompted to dig even deeper. A good thing I live in a college town – access to research platforms is very good here.

POW Swap — there’s been a little talk of the POW swap that happened a short while back. I have been slightly interested in the entire debacle, but merely from a spectator’s point of view. I have heard and read many positions that Sgt. Bergdahl is a deserter and a traitor and should be hanged after a trail here in the US courts system. Only one small problem with that – the US courts system does not and will not apply here. Sgt. Bergdahl is a member of the United States military, and will be dealt with under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (USMJ). Apparently, the American public is slightly ignorant of the fact that US service members actually waive their Constitutional rights when they join, and agree to be held responsible to the UCMJ. What this implies is that if there is a question of whether the military member would be tried under penalties in relation to the Constitution or the UCMJ – the UCMJ will trump the Constitution every single time. US service members swear to uphold and defend the Constitution against all aggressors – but they also agree to be held to the laws and penalties of the UCMJ instead of that very Constitution. Once Sgt. Bergdahl is deemed to be capable of re-integration into the military, he will be investigated by the military and if any wrong-doing is determined, will be prosecuted under the UCMJ. When I read and hear people making comments about hanging or shooting Bergdahl for desertion, I can only smile and shake my head. Debate is not anything to engage in with these folks…

Debate v. Discussion — which brings me to an interesting area of thought. Yesterday, John Beckett put up a blog post on “A Reasoned Defense of Paganism“. Now, John’s post is actually some good reading and makes some really relevant points. But I noted that a lot of the material was based off of the idea of debating and defending one’s perspective. Now, I know there are a lot of people who thrive on the back-and-forth adversarial style of debates. I am not one of those people though. My preference is for quite, calm discussion. Honestly, I learn a lot more when I talk with someone about their beliefs. Nothing turns me off more than to hear someone say something like,,,”You’re wrong. The fact that Jesus died on the cross is proof that my beliefs are right and yours are wrong.” For me, that’s adversarial debating – point, counter-point – or if you prefer Lincoln-Douglas (LD) debate. A secondary bone of contention that I have is that in a debate – there are “winners” and “losers” – and I see no benefit in that. I want to have a discussion, where I can learn new information or see new perspectives. A debate, in my mind, is an attempt to convince someone – an audience member, your opponent, yourself – that your point is correct or false. For me, that’s stuff best left to a court-room, where you are trying to convince a jury of your peers or a panel of judges of your innocence and/or your opponent’s guilt. But that’s really a small issue that I have with John’s blog post — what he presents is some very good reasoning of his perspective. And the post is well worth your read – please click on the link above and give it a read.

Futbol World Cup — I have not seen much of the World Cup so far. I did not watch the opening ceremonies, and none of the first day matches interested me. I am watching, however. Just certain teams. My beloved Mannschaft (the German National team) is a must watch for me. I am also watching England, Mexico, Italy and Brazil. I would watch the US team, but Jurgen Klinsmann seemed to be more interested in growing younger talent, rather than bringing some of the more seasoned players to the Cup. I am not sure I really want to watch that potential train wreck.  Over the many years, I have repeated this statement often:  Futbol is not a game.  Its a world-wide religion. I’m not a fervent adherent to the belief, but I am a member of the religion. I am just not about to head outside and overturn cars and light trash cans on fire when my team wins or unexpectedly loses. I might throw a plastic water bottle out the door and into the backyard. But rest assured, I will immediately go out right behind it and retrieve it for the recycling bin.

Well, that should be enough stuff for the stew.  Time to put the lid on the slow cooker and let it get to cooking.  –Tommy /|\

 

Feeling the Rain – Hearing the Rain

Glacier National ParkIts a sound I do not hear that often here in Texas. The pitter-patter of drops against the roof of the house. Rain is one of those sounds I absolutely love. Unfortunately, the rain comes along with some sporadic lightning this morning as well. I am all too aware that being outside when lightning is around can be a dangerous thing. I remember at one mountainous location, a group of friends and I stopped to walk along a rather scenic area. We could see the rain-clouds boiling up the edge of the mountain, shooting high above our heads. Occasionally, we would be pelted by huge, cold rain drops as we walked along. About two-hundred yards from the cars, all of our hair started to slowly rise in the air.  Not from the wind, but from the static electricity in the air. We knew right then and there that it was time to head back to the car….posthaste. Rarely, do I stay outdoors when lightning is around.

This morning’s rain is a slow, cool, wet drizzle. It reminds me of the rainy days we would get in Germany. Where the rain would start out as a mist, almost as if it was coming out of those mist making machines you see at various baseball parks around the United States here. Very fine, very cool, very soaking – even though it didn’t look that way. Then, over the course of time, it would be replaced with a barrage of rain-drops, and the sound of these drops landing in the pine needles around us in the forest was a relaxing one.

The area around Kaiserslautern is riddled with tons of walking trails. Any free day that I had, I was usually found on one of these trails. Along the trails, were lots of old Roman fortifications that were in various states of ruin. Kaiserslautern was an important Roman outpost on the “frontier” — the wild Germanic tribes and the Celtic tribes in France were both nearby. So, many places were the site of walls, towers, and fortifications. The trails were essentially littered with the remains of these built-up areas. In some places, there were also small hollowed out areas and very small caves. As is typical, many of the youth in the area utilized these particular locations for their gatherings and parties – and decorated the walls with their graffiti. Leaving their testament behind for others in the future. Several times, I found myself sitting in the open mouth of one of these caves, to wait out a particularly heavy rain or the very rare occurrence of a storm with lightning.

I have very strong memories of those moments – both sitting in the cave, as well as walking in the rain while in the forests. The closest equivalent that I have found here in the United States is the forests up in Glacier National Park in Montana. But the forests in Germany are a lot different. The Spirits of the Land (SoL for the sake of typing) feel far older, and are a lot more disdainful of people than those here in the United States. Its not that the SoL are scornful of people, its more like they just do not pay much attention to people. Here in the US, I have found SoL to be far more curious about people, in general. But I am diving down a side-path here, let me get back to the experience of rain….

Like I said, its the sound of rain that I truly love. Its the perfect ointment for my soul. When I need to hear something soothing, I have several CDs full of Nature Sounds that are nothing but recordings of rain. But the recordings are nothing compared to the real thing. I have been known to walk in the rain – sometimes with an umbrella, sometimes without. A few friends have considered such actions to be “crazy” — but for me, its a wonderful experience. Sure, some folks may consider me to be cracked – but the reality is that it is a firm recharge for me. Living here in Texas, where it rains so very little and gets extraordinarily hot, I tend to resort to my recorded CDs quite a bit. But when I was stationed in Germany, I had plenty of opportunities to experience the rain. When my family lived in England during my early teens – I had plenty of rain to enjoy.

I get a lot of flak from other Pagans because I have a tendency to eschew ritual. As I have said numerous times before – my ritual happens every day. And its those everyday experiences that make each one unique. No single day is the same as the next. Sometimes, the wrinkles are small – sometimes the entire cloth is changed. But its those experiences that I get to have that connect me closer to the Gods. Its those experiences that remind me I am a part of a larger, living, changing ecosystem. In my opinion, I can choose to live outside of that ecosystem, trying to bend and tame it to my Will – or I can choose to be a part of it, find my role within it, and live each moment by reveling in its uniqueness. For me, its obvious – I choose the latter.

 

Thoughts on Three…

It all comes in threes – or at least that’s what I have heard throughout my life. There’s the urban myth that famous people die in threes. There’s three outs to an inning in baseball. Three strikes will get you out. A baseball game is nine innings or if you prefer three groups of three. There’s the three-point in basketball. My parents warned me not to do something by counting to three. A stop-light has three colors – red, yellow, green. And then there’s Druidry…

AwenThere’s the Awen with the the three rays. There’s the three dots which represent the three drops of the potion brewed by Ceridwen in the Welsh legend of Gwion Bach. There are the triads that we are all so fond of – little sayings that provide guidance and inspiration for the reader. And there’s the ever-present aspect of Past, Present and Future – the three phases of time, a truly man-made concept that we have ingrained into us through our lives. We also have the three measures of the daytime – morning, noon, and sunset.

Let’s just face it – the three is around us everywhere. And I find it in the strangest of places too. Recently, I was asked by a friend what Pagan authors I would recommend from my bookshelves. It didn’t take me long to name the ones that have had the biggest influence on me – and yes, its a group of three. Cat Treadwell, Nimue Brown, and Johanna van der Hoeven. Each one, in her own way, has influenced me greatly to the point I am now at – where I am taking time to turn my own concepts of Druidry and Paganism over within my hands – examining every crack, crevice – feel every surface that is smooth, rough, finished and unfinished – tugging at each connecting strand to see where it leads to, and embracing not only the result, but its necessary function within my life.

Each of them, through their works and their their public posts on their respective blogs, has shed a little more light into the darkened corners of my own Spirituality. And this has allowed me to turn over some points I had not considered previously. I have been reluctant to take up the mantle of “Priest” previously – and still find some uncomfortable aspects to this as I move forward. But moving forward isn’t about being comfortable. Sometimes, the lessons on this Path are not as easy as flipping a rock over and examining what you find. Sometimes, you have to take apart parts of who you are, so you can examine the internal workings of yourself. There’s always the constant niggling at the back of your mind that you will never get this all back together in a way that it worked before. Always a worry there….

I have been on this Pagan Path for close to thirty years (28 to be more precise) – and in that time, I have learned a lot about Paganism, and a lot more about myself. Its only been recently that I have started to realize that my learning will continue far beyond any course I take, beyond any title I earn through studies with a group or organization. At nearly thirty years, I know that I can be considered by some to be an “Elder” on the Path….another descriptive title I am a bit disinclined to handle or adopt. And in seeing my reluctance there, I know there’s another lesson I will need to learn – much like I did in my avoidance of remembering I am a Priest. But I do know that there are those that look to me as an “Elder” on the Path – merely because of the time that I have embraced my Path. The truth be told, I am learning just as much as anyone else will – novice or expert, beginning student or advanced teacher – we are all lifelong students on our own Paths. Because I still view myself as a student, even now, I would suppose that is why I am reluctant to embrace the idea of being an “Elder”. Perhaps…

There are many other Pagan authors I have learned many points and perspectives from – even Pagan musicians with their blog postings….essentially, there’s something to be learned from any corner. And oddly enough, if I look a little bit more than just the surface, I discover that somewhere – embedded deep down into the lesson – there’s an aspect of three. In some form…

 

 

Being Me….

Being a Pagan is an exciting Path to be on – at least for me. I find new ways to connect with my environment, I spend time researching topics I would never have discovered without researching other topics, I met very interesting people that I never would have met previously, and I feel more connected and fulfilled than I did when I was exploring the Christian faith back when I was younger. For me, I am truly on the Path where I belong. But, being a Pagan can sometimes be a rough Path to walk as well.

Me - USAF - July 1992
Me – USAF – July 1992

I started down my Pagan path in 1986, shortly after I had exhausted my last area of exploration within the Christian faith – that of the southern Baptist perspective. I was in the United States Air Force, and knew that I had a degree of protection and freedom to explore a new found Path of faith in a manner that I could not if I was a civilian. So, I brought a large number of books into work with me, to read when the workload slowed down. And there were nights (I worked deep nights – 11pm to 7am) when the workload was extremely slow. I had Buckland’s big blue book, Buckland’s “Witchcraft From the Inside” and the Farrar’s “The Witches’ Goddess” – along with Margot Adler’s awesome tome “Drawing Down the Moon” – and I brought these with me to read. My co-worker and shift supervisor at the time, lived right next door to me in the dorms, and she was a devout lation Catholic. It took all of two weeks for her to request to have me moved to a new shift. Not because I was a bad worker. I knew the Univac 1100/60 level mainframe environment that we ran at the Data Processing Center almost as well as the contractor Systems Engineers from UniSys that were on-site. No, she requested the change because she was afraid I was going to curse her – her words. I had never threatened her at any time that I was there. In fact, the only conversation I had with her was work related. Very rarely did I speak with her about anything else. And even though we lived right next door to one another in the dorms, we just did not run in the same social circles either, so my contact with her was purely professional. Nonetheless, her request was granted, and I was moved to a new shift.

The new shift was obviously a place to make me feel uncomfortable. My supervisor, the assistant shift supervisor, and the airman directly subordinate to me were all Charismatic Baptists. The radio that we had in the area was constantly set to the local Christian Praise station. Each of them carried a Bible with them wherever they went in the duty station. Frequently, I was asked if they could pray over me or lay hands on me for healing. Numerous times, I was called a “Satanist” when I brought out a book to read. Several times, they attempted to engage me in a debate over how I was scripturally incorrect with my chosen faith. The two supervisors both lived off base with their families, but the subordinate lived a few doors down from me in the dorms. He made it his mission to continue to press me over such issues in our off-time.

I endured through most of it. I refused the offers of laying on of hands, but was happy to accept their prayers – even when they were praying that I would renounce my evil ways and rejoin the family of God and Jesus. I would turn the tables on their gestures though, and point out that I was flattered that they cared enough about me to include me in their prayers. Whenever I was called a “Satanist” – I reminded my supervisor that he would be called far worse by many of the white Christians in his faith, if they were aware he was in an inter-racial relationship – something that was not that common in Texas in the 1980s. When he would get angry about the comment, I would point out that I had no issues with who he decided to love – as I put it to him – “we do not choose who we love based on a skin color. We love who we love because they are who they are.” I kept my calm, but it was definitely a hard Path to walk. Anyone that knew me back in those days can attest to my flashes of a hot temper. When I finally was stationed overseas in Germany, things were far more lax. My supervisor there was a Southern Baptist Christian – but he told me one evening, “Tom, I don’t care if you worship the computers down here – just get your job done, and done correctly.”

I have been out of the military for the past twenty years now. I separated from the United States Air Force on the 21st of April in 1994. But I have never hidden my faith. In two years time, I will have been on this Path for approximately thirty years. Its not been easy. But it certainly has been rewarding and a long series of lessons that have been sometimes difficult to swallow. But I do come away from all of those with a few reminders…

    • Never deny who you are
    • You do not choose your Path. Over time, your Path is revealed to you.
    • Your family is not necessarily that of blood.
    • Sit still, calm yourself, and listen to the wind. The answers are being told to you there. You just have to learn to listen.

I have no doubts whatsoever about the Path i am on. I do not hide who I am. If that costs me a few friendships along the way, so be it. People who would reject me over my beliefs were never true friends to begin with. When I do get challenged by others over why I chose my Path over the Path that they believe everyone else should be on – I remember that getting mad only serves up ammunition for their cause. Its far better to smile and thank them for their obvious concern and caring for you. For me, its just a matter of remembering who I am – and then trying to find something positive about the interaction. For in the end, I can only be me – who I am. Trying to be something I am not – merely denies my acceptance of myself. Flaws and all…

 

 

Playing in the Same Sandbox – Thoughts on the Need for Intentional Community

<br>The definition of Intentional Community
The definition of Intentional Community

A long time back, during a Sociology class, our professor divided the class into three distinct groups. He labeled the three groups as “Upper”, Middle” and “Lower” and assigned each member of the group a set of points. Then, during each turn, he gave the group 100 more points to distribute among the members as the groups decided to do. Then, he would compare the points that each group’s members had. If a member of the “middle” group had a score higher than that of a member of the “Upper” group, the two members would switch groups. The same would hold true if a member of the Lower group had a score higher than that of a member of the Middle group. During the exercise, a pattern soon emerged. Members of the Lower Group would place all the points with the member of the group with the highest score, effectively trying to move that member into the Middle group. In the Upper group, the members would place all their points with the member having the lowest total points, attempting to keep their member from being supplanted. In the Middle group, the points would be equally spread among all the members, all trying to accomplish a score high enough to move upwards, but also high enough to keep from being supplanted by a member from the Lower group.

The point of the exercise was to demonstrate some of the characteristics that are demonstrated among the various social classes within society. It also demonstrates a problem within our modern society. As more individuals slip downwards into the Lower class, and fewer individuals move upwards into the Upper class…the characteristics of individual competition within the Middle class begin to dissipate. But it also regrows within the Lower class, as more and more individuals compete with one another to move upwards.

Now, I am no social scientist. I do not even pretend to play one on television. But I am an observer of human behavior. Back in the mid 1980s, when I graduated from high school, I noticed that society was full of folks in the Lower classes that banded together to make things work. Neighborhoods were much more cohesive units. Nearly everyone on my block knew who I was and where I lived. And there was no problem reporting any shenanigans back to my parents. There was also cohesive efforts to help me succeed as well. When I needed references for my security clearance in the Air Force, I directed the investigators to one neighbor – the guy who lived directly across the street from me. When the investigators were finishing their interview with him, he directed them to nearly ten other neighbors who would vouch for my character and trustworthiness. I never knew anything about that, until I went to my neighbor’s funeral. I had been out of the Air Force for over eight years at that point. We worked together to succeed. If one person in the neighborhood succeeded, the entire neighborhood rejoiced and reveled in that success. And I came from a fairly well-off, middle-class neighborhood.

Nowadays, the atmosphere is different. Everyone in the neighborhood looks at one another in suspicion or in competition. Your politics are wrong – you are someone to be shunned. You look different than everyone else, you are regarded as a danger. In many ways, its like we have denigrated into a society of “Haves” and Have-nots” – and depending on where you rank, you either have folks helping you or folks competing with you. And the group being helped is far smaller than it ever has been before.

For the most part, I do not see a lot of this competition within the Pagan community. Surely, it rears its ugly head from time to time, but most Pagans I have met are helpful – always wanting to see others succeed. Any competition is done from a healthy perspective, where such aspects help people to become better – not have an achievement to wave over someone else’s head. In a way, the wider Pagan community is just on the cusp of touching on intentional community – building a group of people who live together with a more positive outlook. Where we tend more towards helping others and getting to know others – instead of treating folks as people we barely acknowledge on the street or the local grocery store.

I know, the Pagan community has its faults as well. Let’s be realistic, when humans are involved, this will happen. But Gods be damned…surely we can start out by trying to find the positive things about folks – rather denigrating them over such things as the way that they look or the politics that they adhere to. We are all in the same sandbox…surely we can find a nice way to play together, can’t we?

Drinking in the Experiences of the Night

sword-fluteI am sitting outside with my iPad in my lap, watching the light fade from dark orange hues in the west to the all-encasing shadow that arrives on the heels of the Sun’s departure. Yes, I am outside, experiencing the dying of the light, and the increasing strength of the night’s shadow. I still hear the faint calls of the Chickadees nearby, and the occasional song of the Starling that has taken a liking to my feast of birdseed that I spread near the bird bath. But as the twilight fades and my ability to see further than my fence without the aid of the street lamp flees with it – the night gets quiet. Soon enough, the crickets take up their long, drawn out aria for the evening – their song punctuated by the inevitable whoosh of cars rushing down my street. I can hear the steady thump of their tires as each one passes over the cracks between slabs of pavement that comprise the roadway. Sometimes, I am greeted by the shrill and deafening sounds of the music playing in their cars. As they pass and move further down the street, the sound slowly dies out, and the symphony of the night begins again.

I am literally astounded by the sounds I experience – and the rush of emotions that each will elicit within me. The feeling of serenity with the sound of the crickets. The warm, spreading joy as I hear the sounds of the birds settling in for their night. The annoyance at each intrusion of sound inevitably introduced from the passing motor vehicles.

As my eyes adjust to the dimmed light, I can vaguely make out the stars in the night sky. I know they will embrace the company of the Moon soon, riding through the sky in a triumphant parade of celestial bodies. So tiny in the night sky, but each a much greater entity than I could ever fathom. Some of these stars could be planets, reflecting their brilliance in the night sky. But which, I do not know. I have never been really strong on such things as Astronomy. A little voice inside me sounds a reminder that I should. I work for a college where I can take such classes at no cost. And more knowledge is always a good thing.

I still feel the heat from the day’s sun. It was a very warm day today – the hottest day so far this year, if I remember the temperatures of the previous days well enough. Here I am, sitting in the dark, and I can still feel the heat of the day, rising off the ground below me. Such a curious experience to notice. And yet it is there – and I am experiencing it. And that is exactly what this time is all about – experiencing a part of the cycle of the day that I normally do not. I used to be such a night owl when I was a much younger man, stationed at Carswell Air Force Base, working the night shift. The night-time was when I was awake. But I never really paid much attention to the experiences I was having. I was more interested in partying with friends, hoisting a few pints, throwing darts, making mischief. Very, very different experiences.

Its time to come in now. The sprinkler system has started its rounds on the backyard, and I have no desire to be completely soaked. So I gather my iPad and myself and come inside. But not without stopping and saying a silent “thank you”…to the Gods, to the Spirits of the Land, to myself – and to the denizens of my backyard, for their serenade has been a wonderful experience. An experience I will duplicate tomorrow.

 

The Magick of the Night, the Magick of Memories

Moonlight

Night time. The pitch black of the night – or in my case, about as close as you can get when punctuated by the various street-lights and houses around you. For the past few nights, I have been wandering outside and sitting out by the stone circle in my backyard, just as I do when the sun comes up. And once the back yard settles down from my noise entrance through the patio door, the sounds of the night begin anew.

Occasionally, the whoosh of a car goes by on the street just beyond the fence, hurtling its occupants to destinations I can only guess at. Once, a jogger strode past on the sidewalk, pulling his canine companion along – the fluorescent tape on the clothing making an eerie yellow glow in the night as the street light catches the material just right. And through it all, I sit. Watching, listening, marveling. The night has many secrets.

The first time I did this, I went out shortly after the sun had set. The twilight was marked by the noisy chattering and chirping of grackles bedding down for the night in a nearby copse. The neighbors were just starting to head inside after a day of lounging by their pool. Slowly, the night was enveloped by the deafening roar of quiet. I live a few miles from one of the busiest interstates in the United States – silence is nearly impossible, even this far from that heavily traveled road. When the quiet finally arrived, the crickets took to singing their song of welcome for the night, while I gazed skyward. Skyward, hoping for a glimpse of…clouds. I had forgotten to check the forecast to see what kind of night I would have. Instead, I sat and focused on the sounds of the night. Particularly the soft whoosh of the wind caressing the leaves of my backyard giant.

The second night was much the same. On the first and second nights, there was a smell of rain in the air. I do not know how else to describe it. It *smelled* like water, fresh water. Not the heavy smell of chlorinated water which occasionally wafts over the fence line from the neighbor’s house, if the wind is just right. Its the same smell you get right after a nice, soothing, cool rain on a hot Summer day. The third night was different though.

The weather pattern for the area had pulled much of the cloud cover to the East. And this night, I was treated to a view of the night sky. There were wisps of cloud accentuating the sky in various places, so it was not a completely clear picture. But I could see the Moon in all of her glory. Somewhere between full and three-quarters, hanging in the sky like a lopsided yellowish melon doing its best imitation of a piñata. Waiting for a stick to rise through the air and score a direct hit – showering the world in my favorite candy – Milky Way candy bars!! Oh if it were just true!

It was the stars that held my gaze the longest. I could only imagine how much life there was beyond the world that we live in. Surely, this could not be the only location that sustains life? And how would we define life? Ah, such wonderful questions of philosophy running around in my brain, as I watch the unmoving will o’ the wisps high in the dark velvet fabric above me. Even sitting here in the backyard of my home in suburban Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas – I find myself easily transported several years back. Laying in the back of my Ford Ranger pickup truck with the tailgate down, legs dangling over the edge of the tailgate. My date and I watching the night stars while we talked back and forth about whatever subject came to our minds. Our location was a country road fifty to sixty miles out side of the west of Fort Worth – out in the country. Any subject was on the table – whatever came to your mind at the moment. And then it was explored, discussed, analyzed. We stayed there until the sun came up to our East, reminding us both that we needed to find food and then a bed for sleep. A magickal time, a magickal moment. One that is etched deep in my memory. The night does have this effect on me. There are deep memories attached to this period of time, when the Sun is caressing the opposite of the globe, and the Moon reflects His brilliance onto the darkened side – to remind us that the Sun is going to be back.

Like many a Pagan before me, I have stepped out into the environment around me, intent on finding the Spirits and the Gods – and occasionally I am lucky enough to do so. But there’s also magick to be found, the magick of memories. And there is also magick to be made, which will become even deeper magick of the memories. The Gods, the Spirits, the Magick – its all around us. We just have to be quiet enough and still enough to let that under-current reach us.

 

My Imbas. My Awen. My Inspiration…

Rainbow near Divide, ColoradoMy morning routine has been fairly consistent over the past year. Up around thirty minutes prior to the dawn, make a cup of coffee and some breakfast (typically a bowl of oatmeal). Then outside to be near the stone circle and watch the sun peek over the rooftops here in Suburbia in north Texas. I do not always get the chance to be outside though – sometimes there’s rain – and believe it or not, sometimes there’s snow. Sometimes its just too bloody cold to be outside as well. On those days, I stand at the patio door, peering outside of the glass waiting for my daily companion to start that ascent to the heights of the sky. Sunrise has always been a fascination of mine. I love watching the sky change hues just before the Sun peeks beyond the horizon. The soft blues, oranges, and the egg-shell whites that permeate the sky remind me of an artist’s palette with little blobs of paint dotted all over it, just before the artist starts to mix colors to get the correct hue for their visual moment.

For me, artistry is everywhere. The beauty and color of the skies, the landscape in its natural formations, the people that dot the entire day in their chosen hues and style of dress, even the cars that we drive. Everything has a tinge of inspiration behind its creation, a hint of Imbas just vaguely perceived but there nonetheless. I am reminded of the lyrics to the song “Mission” by the band Rush from their 1987 album “Hold Your Fire”:

Hold your fire
Keep it burning bright
Hold the flame ’til the dream ignites
A spirit with a vision is a dream
With a mission

I hear their passionate music
Read the words that touch my heart
I gaze at their feverish pictures
The secrets that set them apart

When I feel the powerful visions
Their fire has made alive
I wish I had that instinct
I wish I had that drive

Spirits fly on dangerous missions
Imaginations on fire
Focused high on soaring ambitions
Consumed in a single desire

In the grip of a nameless possession
A slave to the drive of obsession
A spirit with a vision is a dream
With a mission

I watch their images flicker
Bringing light to a lifeless screen
I walk through their beautiful buildings
And I wish I had their dreams

But dreams don’t need to have motion
To keep their spark alive
Obsession has to have action
Pride turns on the drive

It’s cold comfort
To the ones without it
To know how they struggled
How they suffered about it

If their lives were exotic and strange
They would likely have gladly exchanged them
For something a little more plain
Maybe something a little more sane

We each pay a fabulous price
For our visions of paradise
But a spirit with a vision is a dream
With a mission

I used to be quite envious of painters, graphic artists and musicians – each have a talent I only wish I had. When I was younger, I doodled around the Bass Guitar. I never was very good at it. I could replicate a handful of bass lines from Chris Squire of Yes, but when the complicated riffs and runs started – I was out of my element very quickly. I have always been envious of the gorgeous pieces of work that people can create with a little color and a set of tools. Pencil, pen, water colors, oils – the medium did not matter – its the glorious creation that they brought about that mystified me. Like the song implies, I could feel the Imbas of their creation – I could sense the creative juices flowing through me as well, but would be unable to create anything remotely on a scale of anything beyond “amateur”.

I turned to poetry as an outlet. I have always been fairly good with the written word. In high school, I took the song “Black Sabbath by the band Black Sabbath from their self-titled album (odd how that all worked out), and turned that into a short story of my own for an English assignment. My teacher loved it, even though I was too lazy to put it into the appropriate format. In my senior year of high school, I discovered the joy of writing poetry. That carried over into the next seven years of my life – where I shared my work on a local Bulletin Board Service called “Renaissance BBS”. Sadly, much of that work is no longer in my possession, and I have no idea where else it might be.

Then, for a few years, I wrote nothing at all. I had just left the US military, and life was not an enjoyable one as I struggled to survive in the dog-eat-dog world of capitalism and greed I found myself dropped into. No matter how hard I tried, I could never get my head above water. Eventually, I went back to school for a degree. Soon enough, I re-embraced my love of writing and have never let go.

I have always had the dream of being a writer. Being able to make a meager living out of my words and inspiration. And yet, I am an adjunct professor at my local junior college. I may not be able to bring my words to the classroom, but I do try and bring my inspiration and love of technology to the classroom. I try to show the students that creativity is not limited to the musicians, artists, and writers. That the computer that we use are also works of inspiration. That each piece of software originated as someone’s quest to quench the mad fire within their spirit. Admittedly, not everyone wants to “hear” what I have to say. In three-plus years of teaching students, I have encountered more than my fair share of students that see the class as a hurdle that they have to jump. A topic that they have to finish to get a credit of some sort towards their graduation. Not everyone enjoys the madness of what Imbas can bring to them.

As I said, I love to write. My many journals (I keep three and am about to add a fourth one today) are a testament to this. I still have the dream about making my writing earn me a meager living. I realized long ago that having millions and millions of dollars may solve some of the issues of living, but all of the responsibility that comes with such large sums of money can also snuff out the joy of living. I merely want enough money to live comfortably and not worry day-to-day about my bills or where my next meal may come from. As I sit here writing this, I find myself seeing my feet stepping on to that Path, for the first time. Where that will take me, I have no idea – but this looks like the possible start of an interesting journey. I am looking forward to the adventures, pitfalls, and lessons that are likely to come my way.

My Imbas. My fire in the head. My inspiration. My Awen. May the Muses be kind, but firm in the lessons they will provide….

 

Why I Choose to Be a Solitary Pagan – A Look at Ritual

SunriseMornings always bring a new perspective on the Path for me. When the sun rises up over the horizon and starts that slow climb into the day-time sky, I can typically be found with a cup of coffee in my hand – watching. Its a morning ritual that has served me well. During the time of sunrise, I clear my head of the cobwebs from my sleep during the night. I can put my mind into gear and start to prioritize my day in my head. But there is a lot more to my morning start….

I spend a few minutes doing my first centering and grounding exercise of the day. Next to my large backyard tree, I can visualize myself growing roots through my legs and feet, reaching deep down into the ground. I can feel the strong comfort of the earth embracing me, holding me upright. At this point, I usually set my coffee cup down, and reach my hands towards the sky. I can feel my arms and hands embracing the warmth of the sun’s rays, and the air gently moving around me. After a few moments of embracing the world around me, I move internally and find my center – my grove of the heart.

This is my internal sanctuary. The place where I find solitude and comfort. This is typically where I meet my Dream Crows. Even five minutes in this place will remind me of how I need to approach the world around. My worries, stress, and anger are not necessary. I remember that each moment, each breath, each action is a celebration of Life. I entwine myself in that thought, took another deep breath, and come back to this moment. And I begin my day.

Rituals do not need to be complicated motions and incantations – rote statements and actions. That works for other people, and I applaud them for finding something that works for them. My approach is much more simple. This is the style of ritual that holds deep meaning for me, it is a deep reservoir that I can access at any time and place. Most importantly, it works for me.

No, it has not escaped my notice that my perspective of ritual comes from a singular perspective. My ritual style will not translate well to any aspect of group dynamics. But this, I have come to understand is why I am a Solitary Pagan on a Path of Druidry. My rituals are in my Grove of the Heart. I cannot translate accurately what that Grove looks like. I cannot translate correctly the emotions that are tied to every experience.

I do the best that I can with the writing I do in my journals, but those words splayed on the pages hold more meaning for me than for anyone that may forage through them. Each statement made there is charged with attached meaning and understanding for me. I wrote those words, and the memories and emotions attached to it are my own. Thus, I am able to translate what I have written there in a manner far more meaningful than anyone else. Much like we all attach feelings, emotions and memories to the songs we hear on the radio, the words I place on a page will have a different meaning to me than to someone else.

In contemplating the idea that I am a Solitaire by choice, I realized that the word itself implies loneliness. The lone individual traveling through a Spiritual Life, alone. No friends, no one to discuss those experiences with, no one to celebrate the turning of the Wheel with. Nothing could be further from the truth. I am a Solitary Pagan by choice, but I do spend a lot of time talking with other Pagans. Occasionally, I will attend events and group celebrations to touch base with those same friends and to encounter new friends. A Solitary Path is not a lonely one. Yet there is the implication that it is. In my manner of thinking, this is from a deeply ingrained perspective that is brought about by our modern society. For instance, lonely people are thought to be deeply depressed, deeply resentful of others around them, and that eventually they will snap in a violent manner and strike out at that connected, communal world around them. I am quite sure that there is some aspect of psychology that can be set forth to “prove” my point to be “wrong”. That’s all right though – I still stand by this point. No, I am not lonely. Not by any stretch of the imagination. But I am a Solitary Pagan by choice.

This is only the first in a series of posts that I will be making on all of this. I am exploring the perspective of why I have chosen to be a Solitaire. I am not questioning whether I should remain a Solitary Pagan. I am trying to explore a bit more of who I am, and why I am. My first look here has been at this from a perspective of ritual. There will be more to come…

Tommy /|\

 

Connections of Tradition – a personal thought….

HandsTypically, one can find me with my eyes glued to a book – electronic or paper – as evidenced by the profile picture I have. That’s me, sitting on the beach, reading a book. Now, to further that image, people who know me well are aware that I do not like going to the beach. I’m more of a forests and mountains type of person. Thus, I brought a book with me for a trip to the beach. 🙂 The picture is about eight years old, but today you can find me doing the same thing – constantly reading.

Currently, I am reading Nimue Brown’s book “Druidry and the Ancestors”, which has been a very different perspective for me. She approaches topics from the perspective of three types of ancestors – Ancestors of Blood, Place and Tradition. Much of the material presents a viewpoint I had never truly considered, so its fairly fresh – and at times, a little confusing. But like anything I read, it has provided an implication to my thinking that has allowed me to examine my own understanding of the world around me with a new lens.

I am a very connections oriented individual. When I look at things – physical things, beliefs, politics – I always try to find the corroborating threads of connection. Or if you may indulge me a moment, those threads of relation. How does this one thing fit into the entire picture? Where is that fitting between these two, three or many things? For me, at least, its understanding how those connections work that provides me with perspective.

So I started to look at some of the connectivity aspects of my various relationships. A short analysis found that I have a much stronger connection with people not in my local area. I do have some strong connections here, but my strongest and longest lasting connections have come with people in far-flung places from Texas. England, Germany, Holland, Australia, Washington State, California, Pennsylvania….none of these places is very near. And many of these people I have never met face to face. How does a strong connection get made so easily? I am not sure I can really answer this question definitively.

There are lots of factors to consider – individual personality, common interests, common personal background, etc etc. I am not sure that I could round anything down to one specific aspect. And yet it is there. Strong connectivity across a long distance. If I had to try and bring a “labeling” about for it, I would most likely utilize Nimue’s perspective on Ancestors of Tradition. That there is something in our backgrounds, particularly in our beliefs, that connects us together. Trying to explain that, will probably take time…a lot of it.

I just have to be cognizant that it takes one step at a time to achieve this understanding…its not going to arrive in my head like a lightning bolt from the blue…

Remembering Freedoms

I sit here, watching the light rain falling outside, and have some Night Ranger playing in the background. The backbeat and guitar takes me back to my late teens and early twenties – a time when I was a very different person than I am today. My focus was hardly that of which it is today. Politics and religion had very little room in my life. I had no worry about a collegiate education. My focus was on living each moment like my hair was on fire. Full steam, straight ahead… I was playing soccer and helping out with plays at the local independent play-house. And I was learning…

Strange how that thought is a major part of my thinking for that time period in my life. I was learning. Many of the folks at the play-house were introducing me to classic literature, and I even found someone to show me a bit about energy play. But Paganism did not even enter into the conversation for me. I had vague perceptions that I thought there was more than just God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit – as I had been taught in Catholic boys schools. But I was not interested in developing that part of my thinking.

After exhausting my collegiate options through poor attendance and poor scholarship on my part, the only option I had left to me was the United Staes military. I joined. I was taught to do things the way the Air Force wanted, but there was always that area of my life I kept off to the side. The side of me that wanted to ask more questions, seek more answers, and accept people for who they presented themselves as. A slightly naive way of looking at the world – but one I have never seen the need to remove.

I still accept people at face value. I still expect them to be who they say they are. The ones who have done so in openness and honesty, have remained my friends throughout. The ones who haven’t – I try to dig past the facade and see who they are. After all, every person has layers to them – parts of themselves that they hide from the glare of the public light. Some just reside deeper in their cloaks than others. I never consider that someone has lied about who they are – merely that they had a reason for being cautious. Yes, I try to see the best on people….

When I started meeting people in my local area that were on the same Bulletin Board Systems that I was – I found out just how much people could hide from the world in an online personality. Nine Hells, I have done – and still do this to some degree. Everyone does. We always want to present one side of who we are to the world at large. It takes a while to walk around that online presence and determine the three dimensional aspect of a person.

Take Facebook for example. Or any other online platform. People put their best social foot forward, and sometimes that’s only their sandal. Not the foot that is in it, or the leg that the foot is attached to, or the rest of who they are. They don’t want the world to know that they are overweight, or that they are not as pretty as they think others may imagine them to be, or they have a fading hairline (that’s me!) as they move further into their living years. And honestly, no one can blame them for that. Its the way our society works – we judge people based on how they look – rather than on who they are.

There’s no question that a thin, large breasted woman is pleasing to look at for guys – at least from a physical perspective. I’ve looked at many a pleasing figure in my time. But its not what makes the person interesting to me. The physical appearance is pleasing, but it is only a single dimension of who that person is in my eyes. And honestly, its not even close to being the most important. There’s intelligence, wit, personality, the ability to carry on a conversation, the ability to listen, the smile, the eyes….all of that attracts and excites me far more than a person’s physical appearance. The physical appearance is not that big of a deal to me…I do not need or want a supermodel on my arm. I would rather have the person with the physical flaws, because there’s so much more to them than just their physical appearance.

Yet our society plays up on the physical attractiveness of a person as being a primary factor on who is the most ideal mate. We see it in the movies, we see it in the product advertising that is on television, we see it in the television shows. A person with an attractive woman/man on their arm is considered to be “lucky” and is to be envied. And yet, I envy the guy with the nerdy lady on his arm, having wonderfully intelligent conversations, and enjoying tons of fun with witty banter.

Why do I bring this up? Because we have freedoms to make choices. We can choose to find what is pleasing to our eyes, pleasing to our ears, pleasing to our touch. Here in the United States, we live under a doctrine that gives us the freedom to make those choices, to explore avenues that some may consider to be “taboo”, to sate our curiosity….and we maintain a military to defend those rights, not just for us, but for anyone. Those individuals that choose to defend this country and its Constitution give up the right to be judged under that same Constitution. They give up many of the freedoms we enjoy here – to defend those very same freedoms. And in the end, some give more than just a few years of their lives in this position of service. Some give their limbs, and parts of their bodies. Others pay the ultimate price with their lives.

…and that is what Memorial Day should be for, in my opinion. Not to thank a current military member – but rather to thank those who paid these terrible prices. I am free to explore my Paganism, in ways I never comprehended earlier in my Life. I am free to be who I am. All thanks to people who paid that price for me. The very least I can do is remember them.

 

005 – Goatman’s Bridge and Being a Priest

UponPaganPathIn this episode, I talk about my trip to the nearby Old Alton bridge here in Denton county, otherwise known as The Goatman’s Bridge. I also spend a little bit of time going over some changes I have had in my mind concerning the title of “Priest”. I also spend a bit of time talking about the upcoming changes to the podcast as well.  This episode’s music is from the lovely Kellianna and is her song “She Moved Through the Faire” from her album “Traditions”. Such awesome stuff!!  The Spoken Word segment is my rendition of “Spring Pools” by Robert Frost.

Kellianna’s music can be found at her website:  http://www.kellianna.com/ . As always, if you like the music you hear on the show, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE buy it from the artist, so that they may continue to provide us with such rich and wonderful sounds!


Contact Information

Email: elfster@gmail.com

Google Voice-mail: (972) 514-7315

Skype: tommyelf22

Twitter: @t_elfster

Shownotes: https://tommyelf22.wordpress.com/


Direct Download link:  http://traffic.libsyn.com/paganpath/PaganPath-005-May2014.mp3

 

Yes, I am a Priest

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

If you have been reading the blog, you would have noticed that I posted a review of “Paganism 101” from Moon Books (editor, Trevor Greenfield) – a book that has given me many, many writing prompts. Today’s blog post will be no exception to that, as I tackle a concept and descriptor that I have eschewed for most of my life: “Priest”.

Anyone who has read this blog or listened to my long period of podcasting or even knows me personally – is aware of my hardcore avoidance of the term and title of “Priest”. I am no Priest for anyone except myself. I have always avoided the usage of the term where I was concerned, so that I would not be wrapped up in any misconception over my role as a Solitary Pagan practitioner. I am a group of one…me. And yet, as I have learned over the years as a podcaster, by placing myself out in the public through my podcasting and my blogging – I am more than just a group of one. For the longest time, I avoided the descriptor of “teacher” – until I understood that even standing up and talking about my manner of being a Pagan on a Path of Druidry placed me in a position of being a teacher. I am not teaching anyone about the mysteries of a belief system. I have no formal students, but I am showing people where I stepped along the rocky Path of my beliefs. In essence, I am showing them where the slippery rocks are, and where I had slipped and stumbled. And for some folks, its a helpful learning lesson that they utilize, and pass on to others. Strangely enough, I am finding out the same thing about the descriptor of “Priest”.

In “Paganism 101”, the very last section is titled ‘Celebrant Work’ and the introductory paragraph is written by someone I admire a great deal – Cat Treadwell. Considering the large amount of celebratory works that Cat conducts through handfastings and other rites in her local area, I was hardly surprised to find her writing this particular introduction. In reading through her essay, I found several passages that have really managed to grab me by the throat and make me take a longer look at my perceived discomfort with the word “Priest”.

What people seem to be looking for in The Person Leading the Rite (whatever their title) is someone to do precisely that. An experienced, preferably trained individual who is capable of holding together a group of varied individuals, leading them to a specific purpose. To act as a Priest, in fact, as this term would usually be understood by the wider society. (p.251)

 

There is very little, in fact, that is common to all Pagans, except for our reverence of and for Nature, and our active lives within it. (p. 252)

 

Every Pagan worth their salt has to be able to justify their beliefs on demand. We’ve all heard that simple question: “So, what’s a Pagan, then?” or “What exactly do you do?” The extent of our answer depends on our own deep (or shallow) understanding of what it is that we actually do. Those questions still make me question myself, my own beliefs and practices. And that’s before we even get into the muddy ground of explaining ourselves in a way that is actually understood. (p. 253)

 

Remember: those who do this are standing for the rest of the community. As I said, each of us speaks for every other Pagan when we’re describing what we do. Imagine that, multiplied to include everyone who is watching. I always have that awareness in my mind when speaking publicly: do I accurately represent each and every one of those Pagans out there? If I saw myself on the television, would I roll my eyes and turn away, or nod and smile? The responsibility is terrifying, and for someone who isn’t a natural show-off, never, ever fun. At heart, I can only ever be myself. But I promised to do my best for my community, and so I do. (p. 254-255)

Four simple statements. And in reading through them, some of you might see these and say – “How in the Nine Hells are these related Tommy?” But they are, my friendly reader. They are. Taken individually, these statements may seem like simple individual statements, but for me – they are pieces to a small puzzle. The first statement shows the typical response to the notion of what a Priest is – an individual that leads participants in a Rite or Working. The second statement is a reminder of what binds all of us on this wide-arching set of beliefs together – as Pagans under the wide big-tent of Paganism, as my friend John Beckett has mentioned a few times on his blog “Under the Ancient Oaks“. For me, the third and fourth statements combine together as a reminder – we can only be ourselves. No matter what training we have received, no matter what order or group we have made ourselves a part of. In the end, we can only be ourselves.

In “The Wakeful World: Animism, Mind and the Self in Nature“, Emma Restall Orr states:

Every ecosystem is a community of beings, perceiving, sensing, experiencing, responding, and more, each community, the whole community of life, being in a constant flow of interactions. A community, then, is a pattern of relationships; within each pattern there are countless smaller patterns, and each pattern itself is a part of a larger pattern and a part of other different patterns. (p. 200)

Taken in with the quotes I have brought here from Cat’s essay, for me its a fairly easy perspective of seeing the role of a Priest. The Priest’s role is to help celebrants locate and experience the interconnected aspects of the web that weaves us all together. If we looked at everything around us in the context of a Song that is sung all day, throughout the day – the verses strung together by our thoughts and actions, with participants in the song constantly stepping into and out of the verses – the Priest is there to bring the chorus into focus, to help bring the Song together between each verse. And where are the Priests exactly?  Who are they?  We all are. Each one of us adds a voice to the Song, adds a strand of a verse to the Song, helps hold down the rhythm that weaves its way underneath that Pattern.

I am a Priest. Whether I want to believe that or not, I am. Just as you are. Every day we add to that pattern, add to that celebration of being alive, in the here and now, living each moment so that the future continues to unfold in front of us. We sing the Pattern of the Song, so we can celebrate each moment as we experience it, but also so we can remember the experiences as we go forward. Each strand we weave into the Pattern of the Song is important, no matter how great or small – each strand helps to create the Pattern we are.

Yes, I am a Priest – just as you are. I may not fully embrace the title or the term, but I embrace the workings that are part of it. And in my estimation, that is far more important than whatever descriptor I attach to it. I celebrate Life every day. In every breath that I take. In every action I perform. When I add mindfulness to that equation, I discover where I am on the Pattern, and how my strand of the Song fits in. And at the end of the day, when I step out on to my porch to wish the Sun well on its journey to the other side of the Planet, and greet the Moon as She rises in His place – I celebrate what I have managed to create. I celebrate my workings as a Priest.

— Tommy /|\

Review: Paganism 101: An Introduction to Paganism by 101 Pagans

Paganism 101: An Introduction to Paganism by 101 Pagans
Paganism 101: An Introduction to Paganism by 101 Pagans by Trevor Greenfield

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Goodness, but it took me a really long time to finish this particular book! But, that was not because the material was boring or uninteresting. Yes, this book is an Introduction to Paganism. Yes, I have been a Pagan for nearly a quarter of a century now. But that does not mean that material like this would be something I could not learn from. And learn I did. Written from many different perspectives, the book covers the realm of what Paganism is about, and what Pagans do (in general). Extremely accessible for both the newcomer and the old-hand, the information in here starts with various authors covering the topics – and then other Pagans from various Paths chiming in with their thoughts. The material is not only thoughtful, but also thought-provoking. For me, it helped me to clarify some of the manner of approaching the inevitable question: “What is Paganism?” In the past, I have always recommended Margot Adler’s tome “Drawing Down the Moon” as an introduction for newcomers. That does not change in my mind, but “Paganism 101” will be handed over with that as well, with the directive that “Paganism 101” should be the starting point – and Adler’s book the immediate follow-on. If you are curious about what Paganism is about, and are looking for a way to see which of the many Paths might be interesting and/or appropriate for you – this is where you should start!

View all my reviews

Podcast and Blog Decisions

tommyelf1One good thing about hiking in a wooded area by yourself, is that you get to open up your mind a bit more than if you were traversing the area with someone else. Yesterday, while traipsing around in the trails around the Goatman’s Bridge, I had plenty of time to think about how to get the podcast back on track.

I created Upon a Pagan Path to help showcase the personal Spiritual Paths that others are on through interviews…and while I have had some luck getting folks interested in coming on to talk about such – its a little harder to mesh personal schedules to accomplish this. So, I have reverted a bit back to what From the Edge of the Circle was about – talking about topics from my own perspective – essentially holding a conversation with myself. Sounds a bit like a desperate cry for mental health assistance…but really its not. So, bringing that particular aspect back to my podcast repertoire allows for a little more flexibility. And it also allows me to push the podcast back on to a better schedule. So here comes the particulars….

Format

The show will consist of a few segments – consisting of:

  • Interviews/Topics – depending on the availability of guests and personal schedules it can be one or the other. I will also be attempting to record a few talks and lectures along the way as well. Topics with me reflecting from my own perspective will come with the title of “From the Edge of the Circle” to distinguish this as my own perspective.
  • Musical Features – I have always been in favor of the independent, Pagan musician – and will continue to feature such music on every single show.
  • The Spoken Word – I have not featured the Spoken Word – poetry and readings of short stories – as much as I have wanted to. While I do write my own poetry and will read it from time to time – I will also read poetry and short stories and myths as part of this segment. Every single show will feature a Spoken Word segment.
  • The Mail Bag – I do get the occasional eMail from listeners as well. And while its been a good few years since I have read eMails and the such on the show, I will feature this segment whenever I do have a comment or eMail to read.
  • Around the Blogs – I read a lot of Pagan blogs, and the topics that come up there are not always material that I can turn into a full show. When I manage to get a few of these together, I will spend a few minutes talking about what was said, where I got it from, and my own personal take on the topic as well. Most likely, this will not be a segment that comes up near as much as the others.
  • Shout-outs – I got away from doing shout-outs to various folks and the other Pagan podcasts – and I realize its a practice that I miss doing. So this particular segment will return with it most likely taking place at the very end of the show.

Each of the segments will have their own intro sound – much like the show has its usual intro and exit sounds. Also, I will be bringing back soundfiles for other podcasts as well – but I will limit that to three per show, and rotate these in and out. And for those that have had issues with my “potty” mouth – I will probably go back to utilizing Red Dwarf speak to cover up those words, so that the show is a little more “family friendly” or at least something closer to a PG-13 rating.

Schedule

Which brings me to the entire aspect of the podcast’s schedule. We are approaching the midway point in the calendar year – and I have been sporadic in getting episodes out the entire time. That has to change on my part, so I will utilize a schedule I can remember far better than before. I will aim at getting each episode out sometime around the 22nd of each month. Why is this easier for me to remember?  Because 22 is my soccer jersey number. I have never worn another number…so its easy to remember.

Blog

Which brings me to the blog. “Footsteps on My Path” was meant to be more of “me being me” and less of being the podcast. However, the podcast is me…and I am the podcast. Its hard to divorce the two – and thus, I will be bringing the two blogs together here under the “Footsteps on My Path” title. Podcast episode show notes will now be held here in the blog under the tag of “shownotes”. I will add and backdate the posts that were under the old blog, and delete that particular site. The way I figure things – its far easier for me to handle one site than it is to separate myself into two distinctly different entities.

Well, that’s all I have for the moment….I have some recording to do over the next two days…see you in a few days….

 

Goatman’s Bridge and Pilot Knoll Walking Trail

Old Alton Bridge - aka Goatman's Bridge - Denton County Texas
Old Alton Bridge – aka Goatman’s Bridge – Denton County Texas

As I had mentioned in my last post, there is an old bridge near my house called “Old Alton Bridge” or as local legend decries it “Goatman’s Bridge”. The two local legends are what gives Old Alton Bridge its alternative name. On the one hand, there is the legend that the area is inhabited by a demonic Satyr, who supposedly throws rocks at people visiting the area, particularly at night. For me, not a particularly believable legend. The second legend, has it that a local goat farmer – a black man with a very honest reputation – was lynched from the bridge by local Ku Klux Klansmen. When the KKK members pushed the goat farmer off the edge of the bridge to hang, they looked down to see an empty noose and the goat farmer nowhere to be found. In a panic, they traveled back to the goat farmer’s house and slaughtered his family. The legend continues that if you traveled over the bridge without your headlights on, you would see the goatman on the other side of the bridge, warning you to turn on your lights. When you did so, the goatman vanished. The Old Alton Bridge was in use for normal traffic until 2001, when the concrete bridge nearby was built. Old Alton Bridge is only wide enough for a single vehicle to go over at a time. To facilitate the traffic flow, when approaching the bridge, traffic had to honk their horn to signal that they were crossing the bridge, so that oncoming traffic would slow down.

I showed up at the Old Alton Bridge around 0930, realized that I had forgotten my flash card for my camera – and immediately returned to the house for it. I only live 2.3 miles from this bridge, so the return trip was fairly quick. My first stop was to underside of the modern concrete bridge that replaced the Old Alton Bridge. As one would suspect, the area has become a haven for teenaged drinking, and the resultant trash and graffiti associated with it. The feeling of the land here was not a very strong one, until crossing underneath the Old Alton Bridge on the exposed sandy bottom. There was evidence of some night-time fires having been lit down here, along with smashed ceramic materials and a multitude of discarded beer bottles. The feeling of sadness here was fairly strong, and I suspect it would be helped with a little cleaning. This is definitely something I will think a bit on – and try to come up with an idea of how to go about changing this. Druidry has a service element to it, and I cannot think of a greater way to provide service than to clean up this area. A little planning is definitely in order.

Moving back towards the walking path towards the bridge, there is evidence that remote cameras are here to try and stifle some of the local shenanigans in this area.  It is obvious that this is not too effective from the manner in which the area has taken the brunt of the “activities” here. The grass is a little overgrown in places, certainly showcasing a little disuse or forgetfulness by whatever city or county maintenance crew that should be taking care of this area. When you step on to the bridge, you can certainly feel a part of the Goatman legend. There is certainly a presence located here, and is still quite strong, even in the daytime. Crossing over the bridge will place the traveller into a walking path that leads to a large gravel parking lot at the foot of the Pilot Knoll walking trail. By the way, on the opposite of the bridge – prior to walking over – is the trailhead for the Elm Fork trail which I did not walk along.

I walked along the Pilot Knoll trail for about two and a half miles. The terrain was a bit rocky in some places, and extremely deep sand in a few others. The trail is also covered in deep roots crossing in several places, so footing can sometimes be a little treacherous. Dressed in a t-shirt, jeans and tennis shoes – I found that I would have been better prepared with some hiking boots and a walking staff. The trail follows the edge of several fence lines for private property – including a pasture where a pregnant mare and some cows were located. At about the two and a quarter mile point, I found myself walking behind some extremely large houses – again with a defined fence line between what was the walking path and their property lines. Having not set myself up for a long walk (no water, no food stuffs), I turned back at this point and retraced my steps back to the Goatman’s Bridge and my Subaru Forester.

The entire time I was on the trail (approximately three hours), I encountered a total of seven people. Mostly runners, and a few walkers. But the area and the Path is mostly in the tree line. Very shaded, extremely quiet, and very open with the Spirits of the Land. For the most part, I was ignored by those Spirits I encountered. But I definitely got the feeling that there was a sense of being neglected by these Land here. When I made similar walks in Germany nearly a decade ago, I marveled at how clean the forest trails were. I was thoroughly disgusted at the amount of trash I encountered on my three hours on these trails. Again, there’s a lot of need for some cleanup here – and while a desire to cleanup is nice, a little bit of planning needs to be done on my part. I was also astonished at the lack of ANY garbage cans in the area as well, which in my opinion leads to a desire to just pitch the trash wherever as well.

While I do love walking in my local neighborhood, I do believe I will spend some time out on these trails in the very near future. Its very obvious that the Spirits are here – hemmed in a bit by the continuing growth of housing developments and the such. I will definitely be returning here again, perhaps with a handheld recorder to try and capture some of the lush sounds for a future podcast. Its adefinitely an area with a strong magickal presence…and a very good area for getting away from the feeling of suburbia without having to drive extremely long distances to do so.

Photos from my walk can be found at My Flickr Page.

Cities, Suburbs, and The Goatman’s Bridge…Saturday Morning Thoughts

The morning is a little overcast, and the temperatures are a little low for this time of the Spring. But I know its Spring. My yard is greening up nicely, my backyard trees have their foliage of dark green leaves with a light-green underside on display. And I hear them again. Every morning for the last week and a half, a squadron of geese are winging their way down my street, following the slight twists and turns of that concrete pathway that points the direction to Lewisville Lake. Its not like the geese could miss the lake, its extremely large with an estimated surface area of over 30,000 acres. If the geese were somewhat lost, all they needed to do was gain some major altitude and they would be able to find their way there easily. But that’s the problem, these geese are not flying very high. Every morning, they wing their way right down the street, just barely above my second floor window of my two story house. And they are loud. Their honking is constant. When they are moving towards the house, on their southerly course towards the lake, you can hear their sounds in the distance. And as they get closer, they get louder. Much louder. Once they arrive near the house, you can make out their massive, dark shapes in the sky. And as soon as they pass, their honking dissipates nearly as quickly as they disappear down the street. And this will continue all through Summer and into the start of Fall. Then, they take wing and head somewhere else. And I know that Winter has truly arrived.

My Backyard Stone Circle
My Backyard Stone Circle

I live in the northern part of the Dallas/Fort Worth metromess in Texas. Comprised of a little more than 6 million people, living in twelve counties here in north Texas, the Metroplex is approximately 9300 square miles, according to the statistics listed on Wikipedia. How accurate all that is? Not really sure, but it seems close enough. DFW is a super large place. When I lived on the western side of Fort Worth, a drive across the heart of the Metroplex to the eastern edge in Mesquite would take nearly an hour of constant driving. That was back in the early 1990s. I am sure that drive takes a little longer time, especially considering the growth of the area’s population and the increased building of the Arlington area (somewhere in the middle of all of this). Its not the easiest thing being a Pagan in such a built-up, thriving, modern society. This also does not take into account the overwhelmingly large and somewhat aggressive Southern Baptist Christian population here.

There’s quite a lot of modern structures located throughout the metromess. In fact, its fairly obvious to tell where the small city-like areas are located – with their multi-storied glass and steel structures that dot the skyline. Suburban sprawl is everywhere. Commuter towns, such as Corinth (where I live) dot many parts of the metro area. On weekday mornings, traffic patterns mainly move from these commuter towns towards the inner city areas, where many companies are located. In the evenings, the traffic patterns typically reverse. Any single commuter accident can literally bring life on the Interstates and Highways to a near dead-stop – literally for an hour or more. The cities throughout the metro area have worked together to create a mass transit system throughout the Metro area, but even that system can be tedious and time consuming to utilize. Sadly, the massive amount of commuters on the highways helps to add pollution to the environment – not to mention the amount of garbage that is tossed on to the side of the highway by these same commuters with a cavalier disregard for the impact that such action causes.

All of that is enough to make a tree-hugging, hippy Pagan such as myself crave time out in the wilderness, far away from this teeming pool of humans packed in like sardines, and polluting their own environment. But the truth be told, there are plenty of areas that are not that built up within the DFW area. Near my town, there are a number of wooded areas that can be walked into – and it feels like the crowded human city just melts away. One area is that of Old Alton Bridge or is it is locally known – The Goatman’s Bridge.

The Goatman’s Bridge has two tales that are associated with the name. The first follows a children’s tale that there is a demonic Satyr that inhabits the wooded area around the bridge. The second tale relates the story that a black goat farmer was hanged from the bridge by Ku Klux Klan members. When the Klan members shoved his body off the bridge to hang, they looked over the edge to see his twitching, dangling body in its death throes. What they saw was an empty noose. The Goatman did not land in the river, because a splash would have been heard. Nor was he found anywhere in the vicinity of the bridge after a hurried search. Panicking that their attempt to murder the Goatman would be found out, the Klan members returned to the Goatman’s house and slaughtered his wife and children. The legend continues that when cars travelled across the bridge at night (it was in use until 2001 when a new bridge was built nearby) without their headlights on, the Goatman would be seen at the end of the bridge – warning the darkened vehicles to illuminate their headlights. On Monday, I will make a trip over to the Goatman’s bridge to take some pictures and to hike in the surrounding Equestrian and Hiking Trails. I have driven past this particular area numerous times in the eleven-plus years I have lived in the area – and had not stopped by to investigate. I am looking forward to the side trip (this is less than five miles from my house) – as well as the chance to see if I can connect with the Spirits of the Land located here.

Medicine Wheel in Wyoming...one of the most magickal and alive places I have ever been.
Medicine Wheel in Wyoming…one of the most magickal and alive places I have ever been.

Over the past few years, I have taken numerous Summer trips to various areas – places I had always read about or seen pictures of, but had never experienced for myself. Last year was a marvelous trip up to Montana to visit Glacier National Park, with side trips into South Dakota and Wyoming. At Medicine Wheel in Wyoming, I had a wonderful time communing with the Spirits of the Land there, as well as feeling the incredible presence of the People who had utilized this amazing location to worship their Gods and Ancestors. I hope to make another trip there in a few years, to revisit this extremely powerful and extremely peaceful place.

In a few weeks, I will be taking another trip – this time headed eastward to Florida. This trip will not be focused on the Spirits of the Land – though I am sure a few places where I can attempt to commune with those Spirits will be happening. Rather, the focus of this trip is to visit one of the most Awen-inspired feats of mankind I have ever known – the dream of Spaceflight. Yes, I can understand where someone may feel that there is nothing “natural” about the Shuttle Atlantis or the area where it was brought into the dream of Spaceflight. I can also understand where someone may look at the Space Program as a way for man to try and dominate his own environment. I do not agree on either aspect. I see the Space Program as a way for man to explore his environment, and attempt to get a better understanding of that same environment. For, in my opinion, in trying to understand the environment better and exploring further into our environment – perhaps we (humans) can find a better way to be a part of our environment, rather than trying to dominate and control it.

It truly is a matter of personal perspective. I can relate to the opinion that it is difficult for a Pagan to live in the suburban sprawl of the glass and steel of a city’s metro area. But I also see the perspective that Paganism – and in my case Druidry – is about how we relate to our environment – both the wilderness aspect, and our more modern side. I can believe that many Native Americans looked at the log cabins that the first white settlers built and saw that as a blight upon the “natural” aspect of living. I truly do believe that it is a matter of perspective…and a matter of learning to live WITH our environment, rather than OFF of our environment. Its a matter of changing the calculus of the situation – looking at our environment as something that we are a part of – rather than as a resource that we can use to survive. Steel, glass, and concrete cities and suburban sprawl is how we live. Perhaps, we can find a better way to make those cities and suburbs a part of the environment, rather than the environment as a place where we can force those cities to exist?

Just some food for thought for a Saturday morning…