Tag: Pagan

Review: Journeys of the Soul

Journeys of the Soul by Philip Carr-Gomm
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A combination of a biography on OBOD founder Ross Nichols – along with some of his writings, correspondence, and travel diaries that he wrote during his lifetime. Honestly, when I finished this book, I felt that I not only knew more about a man who died shortly after I was born – but that my world is far more enriched by both his contributions and my reading about him. There were a few instances were it was mentioned that Nichols could be considered as “not fun” in comparison to some of the more eccentric contemporaries of his time, but I found the opposite to be true. Nichols certainly sounded like the kind of individual I would enjoy sitting around his kitchen table, drinking some tea and discussing any topic that came to mind over the course of an evening. Or taking a stroll through the woods, discussing some of the more obtuse philosophies of Life. I started this book knowing some vague aspects of who Nichols was – I finished this book with a far greater understanding and appreciation of who he is.

View all my reviews

Why Not Christianity? (Part III)

DFW Pagan Pride Day 2013
DFW Pagan Pride Day 2013 – These are my kindred people

In the first two posts of this “series” – I took a look into how I try to answer the questions posed to me:  “Why Paganism?” and “Why Druidry?” In a manner of speaking, those particular questions were fairly easy to answer. Both questions allowed me to focus on what and who I am – and the reasons why I am on those particular Paths in my life. This last question is a little more difficult, because it is the exact opposite. I must take my focus away from something positive and step over towards answering a question in the negative. And to make it even more difficult, I will have to try and do this, without sounding like I am bashing on a belief system that many people I know find uplifting and positive influences in their own lives. If you feel that this post comes across as bashing on your beliefs or being overly critical or overtly negative on your beliefs – please, that is not my intention. I am merely trying to be open about how I answer this question that I get from my non-Pagan friends quite a bit:

Why not Christianity?

In some ways, its an unfair question. Sort of like asking someone that you just met if they have stopped physically abusing their significant other. And just like the other two questions, the best place to start an attempt at answering this question is from the beginning. Except, this time I have to go much further back. Into the late 1970s, in Montgomery, Alabama – my seventh, and eighth grade years.

My parents had started me at a public junior high school for the seventh grade. However, being a small, and uber-skinny kid, I was an easy target for bullies, and according to what they have told me – I did not thrive very well in large population classrooms. I vaguely recall Cloverdale Junior High School. About the only memories I really have are the line of school buses I had to walk in the mornings and afternoons – and my favorite class:  Reading. There were these speed-reading machines – designed to help you read faster and retain the information that you see.  You would read a short paragraph at a set speed, and then take a short multiple-choice quiz over the material. When you managed to score 100% on the quiz you could move up in speed, and in difficulty reading. I considered it a game, and did my best to not only excel in comparison to that of my classmates, but I wanted my times to be so great that no one could surpass me. And seriously, that is all I remember of that one year in public junior high school. Perhaps I blocked out the memories of being bullied by other kids…but whatever the case, my memories are not that vivid beyond that reading class and the school bus line.

My parents, wanting a good education for their oldest child, quickly moved me into Catholic school. As I have said before, my parents were not all that religious, but they were impressed with the education system that the school had – along with the small class populations. Trust me, as a college professor, it is far easier to deal with a class of twenty students than it is to deal with a class of sixty. Our Lady Queen of Mercy was the school I was enrolled into. Like any Catholic educational system, there was a class on the Catholic beliefs that each grade had to take. I read the materials, I did the homework. Much of the ritual aspect was really strange to me, but I managed to understand the basic precepts of what the Catholic faith was about. Jesus Christ died on the Roman crucifix and was resurrected to atone for the sins of humankind. Non-Christians were to be treated with the same kindness that any other human being should be – and the Christian should help them to understand the Good News of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Which was odd for me, since I did not believe in the divinity of Jesus. Smeg folks, I was what…ten?  Eleven? Being the naive kid that I was – I figured it didn’t matter what I believed. Everyone at the school would accept me for who I was. Was I ever wrong.

One afternoon, on the way to the Catholic class, I mentioned to one of the other students that the class was “interesting” – particularly since I didn’t believe in the divinity of Jesus. Shocked gasps rose up from the back of the line (my last name starts with a “V” – I am therefore always near the end of whatever line has been created), which soon brought the Nun instructor to discover the issue. My message was relayed by another of the students, and I soon found myself being towed to the Principal’s office by my left ear. I was deposited into a chair at the foot of the Father’s desk, my statement relayed from the Nun to the Father (and I was told to keep quiet when I tried to interject). A few very nasty glares were sent my way, and both walked out of the office. I found out a bit later that a phone call had been made to my parents summoning them to the school. While I waited for them to arrive, the Father kept asking me whether I was demon-possessed (how the Nine Hells should I know?), then read the resurrection passages out of all four gospels. When my parents arrived, I was threatened with being kicked out of the school. All over my statement of non-belief.

To say that this confused the Nine Hells out of me was an understatement. I had been reading that the non-Christian was to be met with respect, treated with dignity, shown what the kindness of Jesus Christ’s mercy can do for the status of your own daily life. And here was the head of a church, treating me like I had farted in his new car. Needless to say, my parents were contrite to the Father over the issue – and furious with me. Which confused me further, since they had never shown any measure of piety prior to this.  From here, I moved on to Montgomery Catholic High School, where the Catholic classes continued, but I had learned to keep my mouth shut at this point.  And then my father decided to retire from the United States Air Force, and move the family to Shreveport, Louisiana – for my last two years of High School.

Once again, my parents deposited me into a Catholic School – Loyola College Preparatory School for Boys. That’s right. The two major Catholic High Schools were separated by the sexes. I found myself having to wear a school uniform. Once a month, the entire school participated in a Catholic Mass. At one point, my teacher remarked that I was the only individual in my class that understood when to sit, stand, kneel, and how to properly genuflect. When she further remarked that I probably did not know how to receive communion, I promptly stood, and showed the two proper methods for doing so.

Why don’t you receive Communion, Tommy?

Because Miss Tabereaux, I’m not Catholic.

You can imagine how popular all that made me with my classmates. But the Catholic class my Junior year was different than anything I had experienced before. The teacher, Mr. Lerchie, set the class up as a Comparative Religion class.  One quarter of the class, we studied the entire Passion Play aspect through the lens of the rock opera “Jesus Christ Superstar”. He posed questions to the class about whether the resurrection was a host – and utilized the lyrics of Judas Iscariot in the rock opera as an example of how it could be. For the first time, I had an authority figure provide me with permission (of sorts) to turn my beliefs over and over – and examine them in the light.

It was here that I first started to answer the question of “why not Christianity?” – it certainly wasn’t going to be Catholicism for me. I had seen too many instances of Catholic adherents treating one another with kindness, and looking down their noses with contempt at non-Christians – “the unbelievers” was the descriptive of derision that was to be worn like a Scarlet Letter by the non-adherent. But thanks to Mr. Lerchie’s Comparative Religion class, I was aware that there were many other forms of Christianity to try.

I peeked at many different forms of Christianity, before settling on the Southern Baptist side of things. In Shreveport, there are literally several dozen Southern Baptist churches in the city. I soon found out where some friends were attending, and joined them in services. It took about two months before I started realizing I did not fit in here either. There was one guy in the entire church with shoulder-length hair. With my thigh-length hair, it did not take long before the whispers fell around behind us – we were pot-smokers. And nothing could be further from the truth. The hardest drug we touched was a six-pack of beer on Friday nights. Before and after church, we could be found over on the fire escape, playing chess or writing poetry. We were about as Bohemian Hippie as one could get – except that we listened to Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Stryper, and Messiah Prophet Band. We were metal-heads. It didn’t take long before people started forbidding their children from hanging out with us. And it wasn’t long until the hushed whispers turned into statements made out loud – just loud enough for us to hear. It didn’t take me long before I realized that this wasn’t where I needed to be.

Over the next five years, I would study about Christianity on my own. I found the entire religious concept to be a beautiful concept. Unconditional Love for all, including non-believers. A belief in a world full of peace and happiness. But that was the “pretty” side of Christianity. I soon found other passages aimed towards the dominance of everything on Earth – where the entire environment was essentially created to serve Man. While I longed for the unconditionally love and peace – as promised through the shiny side, subjugating and dominance over anything only leads to one result – a struggle by the oppressed for equality. Furthermore, I couldn’t jibe all of this with my ideals that Mankind was a part of his/her, an equal partner and part – not a ruler.

And then there was the lip service that was done in the name of Unconditional Love. I saw then – and continue to see now – if an individual expresses any aspect of non-conformity such as, un-natural colors in their hair; piercings through their lips, nose, eyebrows or other personal parts; dressing in a non-conservative manner; or having something other than a typical sexual preference — the amount of anger, hatred, and dismissive attitude presented to those individuals turns my damn stomach. And I do realize that there are those Christians who will point out that people doing such actions as these in the name of Christianity are not following the teachings of Jesus Christ. I still have a problem that this is done – and is not repudiated publicly by other Christians.

Why not Christianity? Because the Natural World is treated as a resource to be used, not as the living, individual entities that comprise it. Because I see a system of Belief that provides lip service about kindness to others, and than perpetuates the opposite towards those that do not conform to their rigid standards of dress, behavior, and preference. To be more blunt – I am a Pagan. I am both a Polytheist and an Animist. I believe in the Gods. I converse with the Gods from time to time. I converse and exist with the Spirits of the Lands. I believe that human beings are a part of their overall EcoSystem and need to learn to coexist in balance with the other inhabitants of that EcoSystem. I believe that people should be allowed to love and live with whom they wish to – regardless of gender, race, creed or any other system of labeling you can dream of.  I am not here to nullify the Christian belief for anyone else but me.  Nor am I here to attempt to convert anyone to my way of belief or thinking. All I ask of anyone else is that same measure of respect.

 

Why Druidry? (Part II)

Back in the first post – Why Paganism? – I did my best to address one of the many questions I get from my non-Pagan friends. My second question, is one that I get from quite a few of my Pagan friends, as well as my non-Pagan ones. Why did I choose a path of Druidry? And why specifically did I choose the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids? As I stated before, the “Elevator Speech” does not quite answer these questions – at least not to a point where I feel I have been able to relate my perspective.

Why Druidry?

A few years back, I always felt that this question was self-evident, particularly in evidence with how I approach my understanding of Paganism. But over the last few months, I have started to realize that many of my friends that ask are not always aware of the personal Path that lead me to the doorstep of Druidry. So when I look for a spot to start my answer, its typically been my experience to start somewhere around the beginning, which transports us back to 1987 in Fort Worth, Texas at Carswell Air Force Base.

I had been conversing with several folks over some of the local Bulletin Board Systems (BBSs), and had been discussing spirituality and religion with quite a few of the folks. It was here that I first encountered a Pagan, which led to meeting more over the BBSs in the local area. Soon I had quite a few to discuss information with, and I began meeting some of these folks for Friday night gatherings at local establishments for long, protracted conversations. I distinctly remember closing down the Pig and Whistle Pub in Fort Worth several times with a group of folks, and the extremely detailed conversations that occurred over a few pints. This was where I encountered my first full-fledged conversations on topics such as reincarnation theory, animism, polytheism, shamanism, symbology and many, many good-spirited debates on comparative religion. There were quite a few very heated discussions that took place, but at the end of the night, we all laughed and hugged one another as we returned to our own homes. There were many times that I felt completely out of my depth in some of the conversations.

However, over time, I became familiar and comfortable with Wicca – and began borrowing books from one of my friends. I read every book cover to cover – and discovered even more concepts and topics that left me scratching my head. Theosophy, the Ordo Templi Orientis, Thelemic mysticism, Kabbalah, Gnosticism….each new concept made my head swim as I learned a little more – but Wicca felt like home. A love of Nature, a connection with the Gods and Goddesses, finding connections with the environment…but there was one nagging constant that I did not enjoy. Ritual.

My upbringing is that of a Catholic, despite the fact that my parents were never all that religious. I know many people who find the Catholic Mass to be a ritual of immense beauty. I am not one of those people. And my dislike for ritual bled over into my time within Wicca. I learned to tolerate the entire aspect of ritual. When rituals were finished, I listened to people gush over how they felt so much more connected to the Gods and their environment after this particular ritual or that particular moment when this Quarter was called or that God or Goddess was invoked. And the entire time, I felt myself thinking how the ritual was not really that necessary – the Gods and Goddesses were always there, the Spirits of the Land (not the term I was using at that time) were easily found – you just had to open yourself to what was there and allow yourself to experience that moment. I constantly volunteered to leave the offerings for the Spirits of the Land after ritual, since it gave me the chance to steal away from everyone else long enough to leave the offering somewhere – and allow myself a moment to open up without interruption. Its really odd, even now – twenty-plus years down the road – I still get strange looks from other Pagans when I note how little use I have for formal ritual.

Carving at a Roman Spring
Carving at a Roman Spring near Kaiserslautern, Germany

In late 1990, I was sent overseas to Germany, and for all intents and purposes completely separated from my coven-mates. And for the first time, I experienced the concept of being completely separated from others where my faith was concerned. I encountered a few Pagan folks during my time at Sembach Air Base, but no one I truly clicked with. Near the base housing I was living at, there were woods – not more than one-hundred and fifty feet from my front door. I walked all throughout those woods for hours on end. I even explored all over my local area, trying to find Pagan shrines that may have still been standing. And in a very strong way, I felt like I was back home. Back in the forested areas I had walked in as a younger “me” – but now even more aware of how I fit into the world around me. I could walk away in silence, and listen to the wind whispering through the trees, hear the call of birds and animals in the quiet woods, and I felt so alive. It was during this time, that I realized that Wicca was not a very good fit for me. The emphasis was on rituals and spell-work, both of which were of little use or value to me. So I stepped over to calling myself a “Pagan” figuring that I would never find a moniker or label or Path that completely fit who I am. And I also began to realize that a label or a name for my Path was no longer important to me. I was (and continue to be) happy with being myself.

Eventually, I would make it back to the United States, separate from the United States military, and live my life within the DFW area. I made another attempt at Wicca with another local DFW tradition, but after my year-and-a-day training period was over – I thanked them for their time and moved on. In time, my own personal studies brought me to the path of Druidry.

Awen
Awen

Druidry, as I have come to understand and relate to the concept, is a way of living one’s life in conjunction with the sacredness of Nature. Through my understanding of Animism (which is literally quite minute by my own admission), the path of Druidry allows me a framework in which I can weave my own conceptualization of the connectedness of everything. The idea that the framework of Druidry is malleable, allows me to mold it to my own personal needs. While there are ritual elements to Druidry, the importance of those elements is left up to me, not placed in front of me as dogma. And the allowance of personal de-emphasis on ritual and re-emphasis on personal experience is one of the reasons I choose the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids (OBOD) over that of Ar nDraíocht Féin (ADF).

So, why Druidry? Because the world around me is alive! I feel the Gods and Goddesses everywhere around me. I am not their focal point – in fact, I would need to achieve their attention through forms of ritual, but I can perceive that they are there. The Spirits of the Land are far easier to work with – in my opinion. Not only are they there, but they are also interested in human kind. Sometimes for the wrong reasons. We – human beings – spend a lot of time trying to destroy the environment that we live in. We try to dominate and use the environment for our own selfish purposes. We sometimes choose not to live in harmony with the Land around us. And it is this point that will lead me down the road to my third – and final – part of this series of posts. I will attempt to answer the question of “Why not Christianity?”….

Thanks for reading – if you got this far!

–Tommy /|\

 

Why Paganism?

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.

I have been a Pagan since 1987. That’s approximately twenty-six years of my forty-eight year life. I say approximately, because prior to 1987, my own spirituality and my religious life were not that important to me, but many of the primary issues that drive my life were quite similar. My love of Nature has never changed. I enjoy being outdoors and being in the wilder parts of the environment. You know, the places where there are no concrete sidewalks, no prefab restrooms for the public. Places where you step behind a group of trees to take a piss. Where the paths you walk may be nothing more than a deer trail that has been worn through over several seasons.

I’m no hunter. I carry no weapon to point and shoot at the animals I encounter – unless you count the camera I carry. I do carry a walking staff, and a knife. I do respect Nature enough to know I need to protect myself to some measure. But guns are not something I care to carry with me. I did that enough for eight years in the US military. My camera provides enough of the point/click/shoot interface that I need. Besides, I come to the wilder parts of the environment to carry nothing more than experience and memories from my visit. I’m here to be a part of my environment, not find some manner to dominate, control or use it. As a Pagan, I understand that I am merely one aspect of what my environment is. Everything else deserves the same amount of respect.

I do get a lot of questions about my chosen Path in Life – particularly from my non-Pagan friends and acquaintances.

Why Paganism? Could you not find the same measure of solace within the bounds of Christianity?  Why Druidry? What makes Druidry more appropriate than any of the other Pagan beliefs? Is this just your desire to be more weird than anyone else?

…and there’s definitely more than these. But the common thread is simple to understand:  why this particular Path? And to be perfectly honest, this is one of the more difficult questions I tend to be asked. Trying to formulate a standard answer is not the easiest thing in the world to accomplish, at least for me.

Certainly, there are ways to try and answer this question. For instance, there’s the “Elevator Speech” concept that I have heard/read many of my Unitarian Universalist friends espouse. And I do agree that this methodology is an effective one, where you can craft the entire one- to two-minute spiel to a particular audience. But the difficulty that I find, is trying to explain something that relates the entire world around me in a series of connections that I explore so carefully and have spent a lifetime cultivating – into a simple, short message. This particular delivery method may work for others, but it is certainly not something I have managed to balloon-animal into a working format for myself.

On my podcast, Upon a Pagan Path, I ask my guests to talk about their own perspective of Spirituality and how it helps them to relate to the world around them. My manner of approaching this, is to ask them leading questions and then let them work forward from that point to explore the topic on their own. In a way, what I am doing here is quite similar – except that I am essentially interviewing myself, admittedly a tough prospect in its own right.

Why Paganism?

So, let’s start at the most obvious. Why Paganism, indeed. The basic premise behind the over-arching concept of Paganism is a reverence and respect for Nature. I am not going to try and define what Paganism is, but rather will describe what it is to me. The distinction is important, because I am not going to try and describe the experiences of others. I can really only relate what and how Paganism relates to me. It is likely, that I will touch on areas that correlate to others who have had similar experiences, but in the end I am still only describing my own experiences.

I never truly knew what Paganism was when I was growing up. I had a very strong feeling of belonging when I walked through the woods in West Germany with my family on while Volksmarching. My mother and father figured me to be daft in the head when I spoke of the “people living in the trees” and wondered why I was fascinated by the various rings of mushrooms that I would find just off the walking paths. I rarely stayed on the paths – I was always bounding off into the woods, walking parallel to the trails until I encountered some obstacle that would force me back, such as a large stream. When my parents enrolled me in Cub Scouts, I was overjoyed to learn about outings where we would camp in the woods, and get to explore on our own. When my father’s USAF position brought us back to the United States, I was disappointed to find that we would be living in a city. There were certainly wooded areas to play and explore in, but nothing like the deep, quiet woods that I had found in West Germany. I never lost my love of the woods, nor did I lose my understanding and feeling of the forest denizens.

Upon returning to the States, I started to understand a bit more about religious beliefs – mostly thanks to my enrollment into Catholic schools. At every grade level, students were indoctrinated into the Catholic faith with classes, and regular church services, held specifically for the students. In junior high school, I made the mistake of noting that I did not believe in the Christian faith, and found myself face-to-face with the school’s Principal and my parents who had been summoned to explain me. It was then that I realized it was smarter to keep my mouth shut and not state what I did not believe, much less what I did believe. And I honestly had no idea what I believed at that point. Eventually, I stepped into the Southern Baptist faith, mostly due to the urgings of a few friends.

The Southern Baptist faith was an odd one for me. My reverence for Nature was noted to be nothing more than an observance of the beauty of God’s creation. That everything I saw and held as beautiful was placed here for mankind’s usage. Man controlled the environment, and utilized it, as had been laid out according to God’s master plan for the Earth. I never believed a word of that. It never felt right to me. I had realized fairly early on, that we co-existed with all aspects of our environment – that together, we made up all the components necessary to have balance. That damn Libra mindset of mine struck again. And once I found that little chink in the Southern Baptist philosophy, I found more and more…and began to realize that this did not fit into my understanding of the world around me either. So I drifted in my spiritual understanding for another group of years. Eventually, I stumbled into Wicca, and thanks to “Drawing Down the Moon” by Margot Adler – I discovered a world of kindred folk, and a spiritual viewpoint that nearly matched my own.


In writing this, I have found that I may have bitten off more than I can chew at a given moment. Therefore, I will write a second part to this – “Ok, So Why Druidry?” will be the next part. And there may possibly be a third part to this as well. Hopefully, those of you reading this will be intrigued enough to continue along with me when I finish the next post on Monday (tomorrow).

–Tommy /|\

 

Stems and Pieces…

Mushroom
Mushroom

Every once in a while, I wind up with a few things that I can’t quite turn into a single blog post. But they spend time rattling around in my head. Much like John Beckett has his “Nine Things I Think About” – I have this, my “Stems and Pieces” post. Its a hat tip to my all-time favorite food – mushrooms. I prefer the little suckers completely whole, but occasionally, I cut them up so that I only use the cap. The result is all the stems and pieces that do not get used.


Early this past week, the news came out about Kenny Klein having been arrested on several counts of child pornography. Initially the conversation rolled along about Kenny and the details of his alleged (he is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law) crime. However, in some corners, the conversation has started to become more productive and has moved into an arena that I find to be far more necessary. How will the Pagan Community handle such allegations going forward into the future? How should the Community deal with predators that we do find among us? After all, false allegations can easily be made against a person for nefarious reasons – the allegations can be dropped, but a recovering a reputation spoiled by those allegations is next to impossible. Currently, the most intriguing parts of conversations leading along this road that I have found are over at T. Thorn Coyle‘s blog on this post.


Tonight, Major League Baseball kicks off its 2014 season. The season was already started with games played in Australia a little earlier, and Opening Day for the Cincinnati Reds (my favorite team) is Monday. So, for me, the season really does not start until 3pm CST on Monday. I am not really expecting a fantastic season from the Reds this year. They are a year older, with an untried/untested center-fielder in the leadoff spot, and a battalion of injuries to primary players as the team comes out of Spring Training. If the Reds win 85 games this year, I will consider it a good season. It probably will not be enough to make the playoffs, since the Cardinals and Pirates are fairly well beefed up in their lineups as well. But I will be happy with the 85 wins. As you can tell, I am a baseball junkie. 🙂


There are a few blog posts that will be coming down the line.  Some topics that I am already exploring in little steps, everyday. I will re-examine my understanding of my position as a teacher (of sorts) within Paganism. Another topic I am wanting to spend some time on is that of Reincarnation, as well as the perspective of Karma. That may evolve into a multi-part post…especially since I am intertwining two topics into one.


My reading list this year is completely filled up with books on Paganism and Spirituality.  In my queue at the moment are:

  • Our Own Druidry – ADF
  • The Trickster: A Study in American Indian Mythology – P. Radin
  • Principles of Druidry – E. Restall Orr
  • Talking to the Spirits: Personal Gnosis in Pagan Religion – K. Filan
  • The Hero With a Thousand Faces – J. Campbell
  • Shamans: Siberian Spirituality and Western Imagination – R. Hutton
  • The Pagan Religions of the Ancient British Isles – R. Hutton
  • The Masks of God: Primitive Mythology – J. Campbell
  • The Mabinogi and Other Medieval Welsh Tales – P.K. Ford
  • Journeys of the Soul – P. Carr-Gomm
  • The Druid Renaissance – P. Carr-Gomm
  • Blood and Mistletoe: The History of the Druids in Britain – R. Hutton
  • The Golden Bough – J.G. Frazer
  • Dangerous Religion – B. Myers
  • The Gospel of Judas – M. Meyer
  • Druidry and Meditation – N. Brown
  • The Earth, the Gods and the Soul – B. Myers
  • Living Druidry: Magical Spirituality for the Wild Soul – E. Restall Orr
  • Druid Priestess – E. Restall Orr
  • Paganism 101 – T. Greenfield
  • Under an Expanse of Oaks: A Druid’s Journey – D.P. Smith
  • Walking Down Awen’s Path – D.P. Smith

So, as you can see – I have a lot of books that are up in the queue to be read. Plenty of stuff to feed the brain.  🙂 And yes, I will be writing mini-reviews of each one as I finish them. Those reviews also make their way into my personal journal as well. I’m quite curious to read these again, much further in the future and see if my opinion changes or if I catch smaller points of interest that I did not notice before.  🙂


Well, time to get my tail in gear here for my morning. Whatever time of day it winds up being for you – I certainly hope its been a great one thus far, and continues on to be a great one through the rest of your day.

Tommy /|\

 

 

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The Connections that Bind Us – A Short Look at Behavior

Big Backyard Tree
Big Backyard Tree

I love my backyard trees. Used to be I only had one huge one. Its actually taller than the house (I live in a two-story). But I eventually added two more trees in the backyard, from branches that had been removed from this same tree. It was a foolhardy thought – I have never grown a tree before, but apparently it worked, because I now have three trees. Anyways, I love my trees. They are the best barometers for the seasons that I have. In the Summer, when they start wilting from heat distress, I know that I need to change the water system to a longer time period to help out. In the Fall, when the change to Winter is about to happen, they will lose ALL of their leaves over a three-day period. Not that I enjoy raking up the result, but it tells me its time to winterize the watering system, and prepare the yard for the Winter. In the Spring, I know that Winter is over when the leaves start to bloom. That happened the day before yesterday. Thus, I know that Spring has arrived here in North DFW.

Backyard Circle and Smaller Tree
Backyard Circle and Smaller Tree

I was only really aware of this connection between the seasons and my backyard tree at around five years ago. Five years of observations have confirmed a lot of my thoughts on the cyclical nature of the Seasons and how to tell when one ends and another starts. The calendar is no help there, its happened on various points of the calendar year. Nor have the cycles of the moon phases been helpful either. But, keeping an eye on my three friends of Nature…I have managed to step into each phase in the right frame of my mind. So interesting to “see” all these connections with the world around me.

You can also watch similar cycles happen in an “un-natural” environment such as the internet. I am not going to argue the point of natural vs. “un” natural – though that can certainly be the result of a future post for my thoughts. But there is a cycle to some of the behaviors that one sees, particularly in the social online forums. As things begin to settle down, an incident, post or statement will allow folks the opportunity to come out and bash against the perspective of the individual making the statement. The reasoning and the topic is immaterial. The resulting behavior will happen. Then the “defenders of the faith” will step forward to offer counter-points or throw in some very offensive behavior to drive away or snuff out the statements of the original dissenters. And slowly (sometimes very quickly), what was a simple statement of belief evolves into a flame war filled with hateful statements and insults.

Now, I am not saying that every single conversation on every single social platform will result in this type of behavior. In fact, I would posit that most people that utilize a social platform will roll their eyes at such behavior and move on without a response. But there are those that are wanting to wade into the fight, merely to fight. And before anyone makes the statement, let me add the following…  My observations are not on any single individual out there – in fact, I would say that less than ten percent of the people I have observed exhibit this kind of behavior. And of that ten percent, I can name one right off the bat:  ME.

That’s right. I am naming myself as being a part of the ol’ Troll brigade. In fact, anyone who remembers me from the ol’ BBS days, is well aware of my ardent behavior in “discussions” (and I am being kind here) of all types and flavors. Over the past two years, I have been attempting to work myself to a far better plan of discussion behavior, particularly where social platforms are concerned. My preferred way of operating is to make my point, restate or refine it if necessary in response to someone, and then let everything drop afterwards – particularly if the discussion begins to descend into the maelstrom of an argument. And over that year, I have come to understand that what one person considers to be “discussion” another may construe to be “argument”. Which makes the time to remain or dislodge one’s self from such moments a matter of personal choice.

Where does the blame lie for all of this? Why have we become such a changed world-wide society, where we argue at the drop of a hat, but barely seek out a discussion of the topic to locate the common-ground to work from? There are many theories as to why. I have my own. The anonymity of internet communications, the lack of news reporting in today’s modern media, the desire of the average news consumer to be entertained rather than informed (and thus the birth of the Infotainment format). And in many ways, changing any part of those aspects will remove the freedoms we cherish within our current political environment. The fix, in my way of thinking, is to attempt to change the way in which we communicate. To change the way we deal with the communicative techniques presented to us by others.

For instance, and again I am using myself as the example here, on Facebook I had taken to marking people’s political postings as “spam”. As someone who thoroughly dislikes the stupidity of the political memes, I thought it appropriate to do so. This past week, I made a status post thanking people for posting their politics so that I could mute the place that the posting came from, and then mark the post as spam. Several people came back with angry retorts (see above notation about angry retorts). However, one friend contacted me privately and explained to me in a reasoned, calm (if you can truly get “tone” from a writing) perspective of why she felt this was a wrong way for me to deal with such postings. She did not come at me about the possibility of someone getting a banned account over the spam markings (it takes a LOT more than just a single individual marking posts as spam to get an account banned on Facebook). She noted that the folks had a freedom of expression to make their points. That merely marking the posts as “Annoying” (another option on Facebook) would be far more appropriate. The difference here was that she didn’t come at me like I was a criminal for handling this in a manner that she did not agree with. Instead, she came to me in a composed, reasoned, adult manner and explained why my actions were wrong. No angry. No disrespect. No finger-pointing or name-calling. And most interestingly, she did so privately. When I asked why, she reminded me of a conversation we had back when we were both in the Air Force together – she was my subordinate at the time.

Me:  ….a piece of advice for you.

She:  Yes, sir.

Me:  Praise your subordinates publicly, but never ever scold them that way. Always handle bad behavior behind a closed door, and in a calm voice. You will get far better results. Treat your subordinates as the adults that they are, and they will respond far better than if you treat them as bad children.

And she was absolutely correct. Sometimes, we just need to be reminded of what is appropriate and what is not.  And the delivery of that message, can mean the difference between getting results, and getting ignored. There’s that connection stuff again…I really can’t thank Emma Restall Orr enough for writing her book “The Wakeful World: Animism, Mind and the Self in Nature“. Its been a big part of getting me to change not only my way of thinking, but also my way of behaving.

/|\

Pagan Culture – Quote

The Pagan Community does have its own culture. The full meaning of that culture depends on the moment, on the platform, on the environment in which it stands at that moment. And when that moment is finished, the culture continues to change. Yes, the Pagan Community has a cultural aspect to it, the Community just does not seem to realize it until the moment has past.

–Tommy Elf

Pagan Legacy

Clinton Presidential Library
Clinton Presidential Library

Over the past week, the Pagan Community has seen the passing of two of its more prominent elders – Donald Michael Kraig, and Judy Harrow. This brings me back to focusing on the future of our collective Pagan Community, and has me thinking on to concepts of long-term legacy. Is there a real legacy here to be had? Or perhaps, Paganism is an indulgent fantasy belief system that we all play at, but are never serious enough to look beyond our here and now?

a long-term legacy

Thinking back in time – and admittedly not that long ago – a long-term legacy was created through information passed down from teacher to student. Or it came through authored books, passing some information from author to readership. Or more likely it came from a lineage from Priest/Priestess down to new groups formed by members of their groups going their own ways. But so much more could have been had, and was lost as each member passed on. Lifetimes of experience and knowledge were partially shared. Then came the lowered pricing and easier entry point for recorded information – cassette tapes, CDs, DVDs, the Internet…

And yet, much of what I see in these vehicles is small in number, sometimes poor in quality, and sometimes completed for obvious ego-maniacal reasons. And our Pagan Community elders continue to pass on. Yes, there are attempts here and there to record some of their knowledge and experiences in book anthologies, and documentaries….but these are still few and far between. Rarely, do we see members of our community even begin to think about documenting, recording or even (gasp!) freely sharing information from our elders. Seemingly, we still hold an over-reliance on the usage of word-of-mouth over any other vehicle of information.

a modern day great library for paganism

I have watched as the First Nations communities all over North America and Central America struggle to record their histories, the words of their elders – as time runs out. As their elders grow older and finally pass beyond the veil, many of the younger generation have begun to realize the importance of documenting what is their heritage – documenting precisely what is their history, and directly from their most revered sources – the mouths of their own elders. And as I watch, I wonder why the Pagan Community has not thought along these same lines as well? Our history may not be as nearly dense or rich as that of the First Nations, but it is certainly important for us to document where we have come from – so that we may have some sort of signpost that assists us in where we are going and what we are becoming. In a sense, all of the information could be gathered in a few places – shared freely, so it can be studied and utilized by future generations. Sort of a Pagan University system or a Great Library. A repository of our collected knowledge, freely available to all.

just a thought

Its certainly a pipe dream at the moment. There are plenty of legal, finance, and social hurdles to overcome, but it certainly does beg the question of what kind of future can we look toward? Especially when we hardly even document where our Past is…

3 comments

Magic – Quote

Magic is about discovering and coming to understand the patterns and balances that underlie all things. It is about working in concord with them in order to maintain or re-establish those patterns and balances. We all work magic of some form or another every day – using herbs to heal, gardening organically, preparing a meal. Those who devote their life ot magic, learn to live their whole life in harmony with the natural order.

The Voice Within the Wind, Greywind, p.21

The Future’s So Bright – I Gotta Wear Shades

Happy Green Beer day…or whatever you want to call it.  For me, its Monday.

Clinton Presidential Library – Timeline Display

Took a trip over to the Clinton Presidential Library over in Little Rock this past weekend. Its a really nice place with lots of exhibits and information about Clinton’s two terms in the office of President. He remains my favorite President – and many of the initiatives he helped sponsor and start are near and dear to my heart to this day. The exhibits throughout the facility are an interesting and memorable walk through my own recent past. All of which eventually brought me to wondering about the future of the Pagan community.

There’s no doubt, if you read through the Pagan blogosphere, that there is a lot of thought being placed into how the Pagan community will look beyond the time of many of us older Pagans. And when I define older Pagans, I am referring to people 45 and older who have been on the Pagan Path in one form or another for quite some time (pick your own arbitrary number to define “quite some time”). At 48, its certainly a point that I think on quite a bit. What will the Pagan community look like in the future? Are the seeds that I have helped lay down in various areas take root and grow?

I’m not much of an activist in my life. I abhor politics in any shape or form. I don’t feel a need to tangle with the governments over whatever pet issue comes down the line. They leave me alone, and I will leave them alone. For my life, it really is just as simple as that. I leave the crusades for people that have the time, energy, and will-power to move those endeavours. I have my own belief system. I have cultivated the ways in which I practice, the manner in which I connect to my environment, my own prayers and meditations with the Gods and Kami. When I finally pass beyond the veil into the unknown, what will I leave behind? Whoot footprints will I press into the Earth herself? Does it really matter to anyone other than myself??

Regardless of how I view things from my own perspective, no matter how much I wonder over my own contribution to the Pagan Community…I do see one thing that brings a smile to my face. Young Pagans. Young adults that are exploring what Paganism offers to them, embracing what they find works for them, bringing their own individual spin to what it means to reconnect to our environment. I had the chance to watch and meet quite a few of these younger folks at last year’s Pagan Pride Day here in Dallas. They are dynamic, full of energy, full of ideas, full of enthusiasm, full of awe and wonder…watching them got me to remember when I first took my steps down this Pagan Path back in 1986.

I still wonder where the Pagan community will be in ten years, twenty years, and even thirty years down the road. I helped shape part of it when I was in Germany, where Pagans were given Chapel space on a military installation for the first in 1993. It took a lot of work, not just with the group of Pagans I was a part of in Germany, but also with other Pagans at other military installations around the world. It took some time to show the military commanders that we were not a bunch of flaky individuals bent on sacrificing animals and runaway children in blood rites. It took patience and a bit of persistence. Its a part of my own legacy that I have left to the Pagan community…and I was only a small part of it. Last year, I helped folks with getting Pagan Pride Day back online and running here in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Even there, I was a very small part of it – but in both instances, it took a group of individuals committed to getting something into a working solution. Each individual contributed to the entire cause, no matter how large or how small their individual contribution or effort was.

I see a lot of that same resolve, stick-to-it attitude from these younger Pagans. Certainly, there is an generational gap between myself and some of them – so I don’t necessarily “get” them all the time. But to be completely honest, I don’t need to “get” them either. They approach the Gods and Goddesses in far different ways than I do. They have their own (rightfully so) unique, individual connection to the world around them. They are working on finding avenues and methods that work best for them. The ways in which I make those connections with my environment and the Gods and Goddesses – might be relevant to them, and it might not. Its not for me to shove my perspective in their noses and ask them if they have tried this or not. As the adage states – when the student is ready, the teacher will be revealed. As I often remind myself – who said *I* was going to be the teacher?

No, I cannot predict what the future of the Pagan community will become or how it will evolve. I can see a vision of how *I* would want it to be. But I am not the future. They are. Those younger Pagans, new to this Path, and searching with the Hope and Happiness that comes with finding a new Path through Life. They will follow in my footsteps and the footsteps of others, but eventually, they will find the end of that trail. Where our footsteps stop. And it will be up to them to forge a new Path beyond. And in my heart, I find nothing to be more exciting than that prospect.

Me

These younger Pagans not only excite me, but they impress me as well. They are bright. They see Life from a perspective I have not often considered. I cannot predict the future, but I definitely see the future of the Pagan community in the right hands. In the hands of explorers, Pagans with an innate curiosity. Pagans with a love for their environment. Pagans with a deeply profound respect for all they see. Pagans who can be serious and still find the “fun” in their lives as well. Yes, in my eyes – the future looks so bright – I gotta wear shades.

Building Towards the Ideas of a Pagan Community Future

Not that long ago, I remember the Pagan blogosphere was dotted with a few pieces answering the question of what the writer wanted to see the Pagan community build. A few folks mentioned shrines, temples, and sanctuaries as possibilities. And I do somewhat recall John Beckett making a notation of a Pagan-oriented seminary collegiate type of environment. In a recent post, Jason Mankey made a point about a Pagan Broadcasting Network. All of these are fantastic ideas, in my opinion.

I even have visions of all these ideas being combined into one. A Pagan collegiate campus, focused on religious studies, with a Pagan Broadcasting Network hosted in one of the buildings. All of it encapsulated and integrated into a forested environment, where the environment is allowed to grow wild. The broadcasting arm of the campus would provide audio and video materials of talks and lectures from many different Paths, and the music of Damh the Bard, Wendy Rule, Fionn Tulach, and many others would amble along the airwaves. A vision that truly grabs at my professorial heart and appeals deeply to my Pagan soul.

Medicine Wheel (Wyoming)
Medicine Wheel (Wyoming)

But I also have to be somewhat realistic. The chances of me seeing a vision such as this happen within this lifetime are fairly remote. Sanctuaries, Pagan musicians, and even Pagan-oriented collegiate environments are a reality. So how far down the road do I see this vision of my own? To be completely honest, I have no idea. It could be five years, it could be fifty. But this idea of a “building” vision got me to thinking about what I would like to see from the Pagan community on a smaller scale.

There’s a lot of things that I could desire from my Pagan community. I am proud of the way my local Pagan community stepped forward to donate canned goods and blood during last year’s Pagan Pride Day. But more intriguing to me, is the idea of a collegiate scholarship fund for a student looking to head to college. For me, the degree would be immaterial to the point – instead, I look at the fund as a monetary manner to invest in the future of our Community. I am not sure of the specifics related to this entire train of thought – that’s not the point. Plus, I have no idea what such a fund would take to get it running and such. But it is certainly a dream that I would love to see giving a chance.

But really, I am sure there are plenty of other dreams that people can have in regards to this question. After all, the Pagan community is a rather large, and quite a diverse group of beliefs and points-of-view. In the end, any and all of the visions that can be dreamed of really lead to one point – what do we envision for the future of our community? How do we go about continuing to build and grow our community? And considering the current growing pains that the Pagan community at large currently faces — this is quite the same as asking a six-year old child what he/she wants to be when they grow up. The resulting answer is likely to be quite different than the answer that eventually arises. And while the final answer may not be quite what was originally dreamed of – oh, think of the full, wonderful set of experiences that combined to bring that child to that point in adulthood. I certainly envy the experiences that the child will go through – having been there myself. And how I relish the experiences we shall go through as a Community, as we continue to grow towards the dreams we dream together….

“Pagan Privilege” – Just Not ‘Getting’ It…

Pagan privilege. Apparently, its a topic that is “the rage” at the moment. Apparently – and if I have this correct – this comes from a viewpoint that in an interfaith setting, the prevailing setting for ritual comes by way of the more numerous group of attendance – or from the group that claims to be in control of the ritual setting. Or if you will – something like this:  a ritual held at an event is primarily done with w Wiccan styling because the predominant attendance will be from people of that particular belief system – or at least it is assumed that this is so.

Now, perhaps its because I am a Pagan that holds a solo practice… Or maybe its because I lean heavily on Druidry for influence on how I handle my relationship with my Gods and environment through ritual… Or maybe its because I am a crotchety old soul… Whatever the case may be, I just do not see this as a big issue. Perhaps I am just missing the entire point…

T. Thorn Coyle describes a moment at this most recent PantheaCon in her blog post, where she said a prayer at a panel she was on without prefacing it with a “this is something from my own tradition…”. Apparently some folks took a bit of offense that the prayer was not inclusive – that the format of the prayer was from Coyle’s tradition and was therefore exclusive of other faiths that may not follow the suggestions manifested in her prayer.

Color me a little shocked. Not shocked over what Coyle did in her presentation of a prayer in her own style. Color me shocked that others would feel excluded since it was not presented in a format that was familiar or seemingly was geared towards one particular tradition or format. Now, to be completely fair – I was not there. I was here in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, where I live. So all of my information comes as secondary knowledge. But I am still somewhat stymied over this entire concept, but I think see a bit of where the problem may be coming from — trying to be all-inclusive.

I like the idea of inclusion. But. I think it may go a step too far sometimes. Let me paint out a scenario for you – a group of folks have gotten together at a table for a meal. Two are Christians – a Baptist and a Catholic. Four are various flavours of Wiccan-oriented Pagans. One is a Yoruba Priestess. Another is an AODA Druid. I am picking this individuals’ faiths off the type of my head – so please do not feel I am picking on any one belief system. After being seated, and prior to the start of the meal, the Baptist asks to say a prayer prior to eating. Everyone agrees, and silently waits through the Baptist Christian’s mealtime prayer. The prayer, obviously, will be centered on the Baptist Christian’s faith. If we get down to brass-tacks, even the Catholic would be excluded from the style of prayer. Should anyone feel offended? Even if the Baptist Christian asks for Jesus to come forth in the lives of the other individuals sitting at the table and manifest himself in their lives, so that they would not die sinners?

To bring this to a perspective of nearly full circle…I have been in this situation numerous times. The players in this game of meals changes from time to time. But one thing is common amongst all the participants – we respect one another’s perspective. I have thanked Crow numerous times for being a part of my Life. I have even taken part of my meal outside to provide as an offering to the Spirits of the land before eating my own portion. Never once did anyone bat an eyelash or exclaim offense at any perceived slight. Sure, I had questions asked about my observances – but that was after I had concluded my offering and had returned to the table to eat my meal. There was a definite degree of skepticism in the questioning as well – I mean seriously.  Holy shit people. I had no illusions that my offering to the Spirits of the land or my thanks to Crow would change anyone’s spiritual perspective. Nor was any of that my intent. I have sat through plenty of other prayers and offerings from the others as well. And never once has anyone been offended over any of that. Because its called (gasp!) MANNERS.

I come to someone’s panel at an event like PantheaCon, I do not expect to be included in anything. I expect them to be themselves, offer any prayers to their own Gods, offer their own perspective — is that not the reason they are in the panel?  For them to be themselves?  For them to provide their own, unique perspective?? ::big sigh::  But then, reading through a lot of the comments, and other posts I have seen on the topic of “Pagan privilege”….perhaps I just do not “get it”… I know that there are times I am grateful that I am solo in my personal belief system…even though I am aware that I am connected to so many other practices through the tiny, invisible web of sacred connection….

Anthropo…What?

Anthropocentrism. Before I had read Alison Lilly‘s post on it, I had heard this term a total number of times of…well, zero. After reading her blog post on the topic, as well as some of the accompanying links that she had added – I have to admit I am still somewhat scratching my head. So, let me start off by using the definition that she had in her blog:

Anthropocentrism is the philosophical view that human beings are separate from and superior to the rest of the natural world, possessing intrinsic value that other beings and entities (such as plants and non-human animals) lack.

It must have been the lack of coffee.  Perhaps it was my lack of focused concentration, as I was preparing a lecture for three classes on competitive advantage in Business environments by utilizing Information Systems. My brain just was not going to get around the concept. Thus, this entire post sat – untouched – through the entire day yesterday. But this morning, with my caffeine addiction fed, the hamster that keeps the neurons firing in my brain managed an early start to the day, and I realized where I had read this before.

In “The Wakeful World: Animism, Mind and the Self in Nature“, Emma Restall Orr noted the following from a talk given by American historian Lynn White Jr in his talk “The Historical Roots of Our Ecologic Crisis“:

Published in the journal Science (1967), White proposed that medieval Christian attitudes were the root cause of the impending disaster. The Church’s declaration that mankind had a divine right of dominion over nature both predated and underlay the mechanism and materialism that went on to inspire the social and environmental upheaval of the Industrial Revolution.

The principle of Christian dominion. The idea that the everything was created by God to serve the human race. Or as put in Genesis 1:28:

And God blessed them, and God said unto them, “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.

A principle I wholeheartedly reject. So in looking for a way to define the concept of anthropocentrism, I would not only agree that the definition she provided in her post is a good one, but I would also hold up the principle of Christian dominion over nature as an example where it occurs in a religious belief system. But that’s an easy example. Alison asks another question that potentially drives even deeper into the question:

Where do you see it in happening in Paganism?

Whoa. This is a really tough question.  First, I would have to make an assumption as to the base of my knowledge of other Pagan beliefs. And I will admit, its woefully inadequate to answer this question from any competent perspective. So I am not sure I can answer that with any degree of clarity, other than to echo my own personal experience and perspective.

I am a single individual, tied to no coven, grove or group – aside from my studies as a Bardic grade student in the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids. I see myself as a part of Nature – not as a Lord over Nature. At one time, I had a view of myself as a “protector” and “healer” of Nature….but that perspective smacked too much of me being separated from Nature. Besides, Mother Gaia is far better at doing both of those jobs than I could ever dream of being. Instead, I find myself trying to fulfill my role in my own environment. I try to keep my area clean, and try to live in as much harmony with all that is around me as I possibly can.

Alison moves on in her blog post towards a concept of value towards everything around them. And I find myself seeing my perspective as being equal to the animals and Nature around me. Here in Corinth, we have a herd of wild deer that roam the outskirts of Lake Lewisville. Essentially trapped by the sudden spurt of urban development, the herd has a tendency to move through the local urban sprawl in the middle of the night, when far fewer people are about. In my mind, they have as much right – if not more – to be here as we suburban dwellers do. After all, they were here first. There have been moves made by the local city councils to allow hunters to eradicate the herd, and other calls to move the herd. But there have been enough people who show up at the city councils to point out that the herd hurts nothing except some potted plants and exposed gardens. They tend to avoid areas of high vehicular traffic, and pose no threat, unless threatened. They are, after all, just trying to find a way to coexist with the new, sudden addition of human beings in their instinctual area of habitat.

Avalanche Lake Trail, Glacier National Park
Avalanche Lake Trail, Glacier National Park

To be fair, I am not sure I have managed to answer Alison’s questions here, but I have certainly attempted to give it my best shot. I am not nearly the eloquent blogger that John Beckett, T. Thorn Coyle, and John Halstead are – I do, however, know my own perspective on a topic. Even when my brain will not completely wrap around the concept presented. I do believe that there are values that each person places on the concepts all around themselves…and I place the same value on Nature, animals, plants, insects and other aspects that I do on myself or any other human being. For me, human beings are not above Nature, it is not there for us to arbitrarily use and then toss over our shoulder like a used McDonald’s cheeseburger (yech) wrapper. Unfortunately, the fight against that mindset is a long one – given today’s uber-materialistic and consumer-driven environment. It will be a difficult road to travel, but I do believe that changing that anthropocentric mindset…I actually like “dominion-oriented” much more….can be done. And I do believe that a lot of the problems that we see in the world today is due to the fact that human beings do not strive to live in balance with their environment.

Perhaps that’s just the Libra in me pushing its way to the forefront…

–Tommy /|\

From the Edge of the Circle – Episode 140: DFW Pagan Pride Day 2013

Musical Feature – “Artemis” by Wendy Rule from her album DIETY.  Wendy’s music can be found at her website:  http://wendyrule.com/

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Pagan Pride Day for the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area was held on Saturday, October 5th – and it was a blast!  I blather on about the event for a bit – including my view of the three rituals for the day.  Though I did not attend, my vantage point from the Welcome Table was absolutely awesome.  I also talk a bit about what volunteering for the event meant for me – and my hopes that you – the listener – will volunteer to help out for your local PPD.

I also debut the new intro for “Upon a Pagan Path” – I will have the site’s new location shortly….I am looking forward to starting the new podcast in November and hope you come along with me there.  I am sad about setting Edge to sleep, but am also excited to celebrate what Edge was with the next episode – 141 – which will be the last.

Last but not least, I have two voicemails I received concerning DFW Pagan Pride Day – and one of these contains an offer from one of the vendors that was there!!  Please remember – support your local, independent Pagan artists!!

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Email:  elfster@gmail.com <— send any texts or audio files that you want included in the last show!  Its going to be a lot of fun looking back!!

From Within the Circle blog:  https://tommyelf22.wordpress.com/

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Direct Download:  http://traffic.libsyn.com/edgeofcircle/EdgeofCircle140.mp3

DFW Pagan Pride Day – 2013

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Mid-day ritual with the foggy mist coming off the lake in the background

For the past five years – everyone has heard me bitching and moaning about the need for cohesive community here in my local area.  I am extremely envious when I see photos of what other local Pagan communities are doing.  I am thrilled to read the wonderful stories that come out of other Pagan Pride Days.  I can no longer be envious and watch other communities holding wonderful Pride Days…and continue to wish for it to happen here in my local community.  BECAUSE IT HAPPENED HERE YESTERDAY AND IT WAS AWWWWEEE-SOME!

As I had mentioned in the last post – I was a late-comer to the Planning Committee for this year’s Pagan Pride Day.  I was welcome with open arms and made to feel like I had been part of the event planning from the very beginning.  The group of people I have had the distinct pleasure of helping to make this event go with – they have been nothing short of a fantastic pleasure.  There were bumps along the way, but nothing that was insurmountable.  And when those moments occurred, everyone rolled up their sleeves and helped to push the sled over those hills.  From the beginning, the purpose of the event was to bring something to fruition for the Community.  And it happened.  I cannot tell you the joy I have in my heart to have seen all the volunteers – both with the Planning Committee and with other volunteers who offered their time to assist in making this event go…the joy I have in my heart to have seen those people laughing, meeting friends that they had not seen, working together to make things go…seeing all of them (myself included) enjoying themselves…that was an awesome sight.

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Closing ritual – “Cernunnos” by Denton CUUPs

But that was nothing compared to what I saw from my local community.  I talked with total strangers who came to the Information Booth – some multiple times – to tell me and the others located there that this was a fantastic event.  I witnessed (and shared in) hug after hug from people who came from all over for the event.  The happiness I saw on their faces was an immeasurable thing.  The three of us that were in and out of the Information Table area were riding high on the glowing, positive energies we felt from these folks.  It was amazing.  And from the Information Table location, we witnessed all three of the rituals (we were just up the hill from the location) – and each of them were just astounding.  We could hear the rituals all the way up the hill – even over the sound of the Carter Blood Mobile that was located on site ( I will get to that in a moment).  The energies coming off those rituals was amazing – particularly the closing ritual which was a Cernunnos oriented ritual performed by the Denton CUUPs group.  The mid-day ritual had a tinge of mist coming off the lake, as the weather cooled considerably faster than the lake did.  The effect was astounding to witness.

There were many charities on-site, and my heart was completely melted by the generosity that I witnessed.  A canned food drive was in progress at the Information Booth – and I watched as donation after donation went into the rubber-maid wheeled bucket.  *UPDATE*  110 Pounds of Food Were Collected for the Soup Mobile This Year!”  The Carter Blood Mobile was also nearby, and I watched several folks go in and give a pint of blood.  It was truly fantastic to watch my local community give so much.  *UPDATE*  From the DFW Pagan Pride Day FB page:  “A total of 51 people will be helped because 17 blood donors stepped forward yesterday!”  AWESOME!!!!

As I was working the event as a volunteer, I did not get a lot of chance to do the things that I had wanted – attend workshops, attend the rituals, or run around with my hand-held recorder asking for impressions of the event for the podcast.  That’s alright though.  I saw folks I have not seen in many, many years.  I saw friends who I had lost touch with.  I made new friends from complete strangers.  I even saw a few of the podcast’s listeners (who came all the way to the event from far Ft. Worth!).  Next year’s event (yes – there will be another one next year!) will be in Fort Worth – and I plan on being a little more into the events.  But I really enjoyed playing my self-described role as “foot soldier for the cause” – it allowed me to be in multiple areas throughout the day…where I had a chance to interact with so many more people.

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The program from DFW Pagan Pride Day. Check out the very crisp folding!! (Inside joke there folks!!)

This morning….my body HURTS.  I carried lots of stuff.  I ran all over the place taking care of things.  I even wore a yellow-canary tshirt which identified me as a volunteer for the event (yellow is NOT my color).  It was an amazing event.  The people behind the scenes were completely amazing.  The people who attended the event were astounding.  In front of my eyes…I saw community happening!  I watched people from different Spiritual Paths not only interact with one another, but completely enjoying those interactions.  And I cried.  I cried tears of joy and happiness.  If you scratch hard enough – just beneath the surface, we found that community we all have wanted.  Its been there all the time…and its a real joy to see it flourishing out in the open.

The little seed has sprouted again.  Now, we nourish it and help it to flourish.

No Priest Here…

I am still tickled when I read a message from someone who refers to me as a ‘Priest.’  I am far removed from any such title or Imageposition.  Simply put, I am a Pagan.  I follow the Gods as they present themselves to me, but that typically falls along a First Nations path more than anything else.  My primary framework for my religious practices comes from the lessons of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids.  But following that framework does not make me a Priest.  I have had training in two Wiccan paths – including initiation into the first grade of one of those traditions (the other offered the initiation, but I chose to refuse since my military career was about to take my overseas).  But that also does not make me a Priest.  I hold no claim or desire to be such.  I guess its the fact that I am working along a Druidic path that confuses folks.  But just because I use the framework, that does not make me a Priest either.

My idea of ritual is rather different than that of a lot of other folks I have encountered as well.  Every morning starts my day with greeting the sunrise.  Hopefully, the weather allows me to be outdoors.  If not, I am content to stand in the kitchen and look out my backyard windows to the East.  My daily Life starts, and along with it – my ritual of respect to the Gods.  It makes no difference what I do over the course of the day.  I teach, so a lot of my typical days are spent trying to hammer home some academic point for my students.  Before every class, I spend a few moments finding my own internal center – and try to remember the state of mind I had when I spend time learning material.  After every class, I spend a couple of moments grounding and centering – typically outside (if possible).  I find it useful to ground and center to let go of any stray energies I may have encountered while working with the students.  Before each meal, I spend a few moments thanking the Gods for providing whatever I am about to eat — yes, even meals that are comprised of materials from the “evil” GMOs.  When I finally make it back to the house – I unwind with short meditative moments, and generally enjoy whatever time I have left.  The closing to my night is to spend a few moments greeting Grandmother Moon – even when there is cloud cover and I cannot readily see her.  For me, each day is an extended ritual.  There is nothing overly special about the day – but each footstep and breath I take – my focus is on being the best I can possible be in that moment.  Not just for myself, but also for my ancestors – past and present.  What I do in each moment of the day sends ripples through time – both forward to my future generations – and backward through the generations that have already come and past.

I am no Priest.  I have no desire or ambition to place myself into such a position of responsibility.  I am really just me – responsible for myself and my own actions.  And I have talked about this on numerous occasions with various people.  A few have made the comment that I am my own Priest.  Sure, I can work with that – if there’s a requirement that there just MUST BE a Priest involved in there somewhere.  I will accept the title then.  But in the end, I am still no Priest.