I was browsing through YouTube a few days ago, and stumbled across a video by Scarlet Ravenswood titled “7 Things I wish I Knew Before Becoming Pagan.” I found the video fun to watch, even though it is aimed directly at the Pagan newbie. Some of her points were pretty much spot on for me, and I’ll even duplicate a few of them in my own list. Yes, I thought this was enough fun to give it a try myself – except that I am not aiming too far down my own Pagan path. I just want to approach the aspects related to my own Druidry. So, here we go.
Druidry Is Not a Single Process
What I am getting at here is that Druidry is not meant to force you down a single tube towards a particular way of thinking. Material is presented to you, and you are given the freedom to explore in any direction you feel the need to go. Yes, there are some lessons embedded in the materials you are provided, but there is a lot of freedom to explore (and even expand) on what you envision in the world around you. When I first started down my own Path in Druidry, I tried to stay on what I perceived was the “straight and narrow” for Druidry. However, the further I walked along my Path, the more I noticed that a directed Path would be nearly non-existent, forcing me to look in other directions (or all around) to figure out which foot-falls I really needed to take – not for my Druidry, but for myself. In the end, I started to realize that personal Spirituality was not about walking along any singular Path, but about finding connectivity with the world all around you.
Learning Is Not Just the Order’s Lessons
I work within the structure of the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids (OBOD). Currently, I am working through my Ovate grade materials, and have been for a while. When I first started on my Bardic grade, I had a typical newbie belief that once I made it through the three grades of the Order, all learning would end. When I started to (finally!) come to the end of my Bardic grade, I soon realized that I would always be learning lessons from the Bardic grade for the rest of my life. Plus, it would be the same for the Ovate and Druid grade lessons. However, that learning would be more than what was in the lessons provided by the Order. Learning would be a lifetime experience, as each lesson would build on previous lessons, opening a whole new perspective of the world around me. This will continue to the day that I pass beyond the veil…and likely even once I slip past the veil. What I am learning in my Druidry lessons is just a door opening into a wider understanding that I will experience.
Elder and Priest Are Just Labels
I have railed against the descriptive aspects of what a Priest and an Elder are for quite some time. I am fond of neither term. There are few more descriptive terms that I don’t really care for. However, in the end – these are just labels. I make the kind of Pagan or Druid that I am through my own actions. I don’t need a title or a label to make me into who I am. Yes, it has taken quite a lot of time, a lot of navel-gazing, and a lot of brow-furrowing for me to come to this point. I am the Pagan and Druid that I am from my actions – not from reaching some aspect of training in the Order or some length of time in identifying myself as a Pagan. To be honest, I have lost a lot of time and energy struggling and wrestling with all of that – only to find that it was not necessary. I’m just me. Nobody extra-ordinary. Nobody special. Just someone who has persisted in my studies and my own personal Spirituality for as long as I have.
All the Research and Reading Involved in This
One thing I will say about being a Pagan, it has taught me a lot about researching things that I am trying to understand. I look at my bookshelves and see all the book titles that I have read, which have helped me to better understand my own Path. Each one has provided a small part of my understanding but taken together – they are all a part of my daily, personal Spirituality. When I was in high school, I was not the most studious individual. My research and reading skills were non-existent, as evidenced by my 1.76 Grade Point Average (GPA) upon graduating. Becoming a pagan, I was shown the power of reading, understanding the material, and even extrapolating on what I had read to create my own spin on my daily, personal Spirituality. But I will admit…if I had known how much reading and research would have been involved in this Spiritual Path, I might have run screaming in the other direction. 😉
I started down my Pagan Path sometime in 1986. This year will be my thirty-fifth as a Pagan. To be blunt, it doesn’t feel that way. I have a few Pagan friends that were there at the beginning, and I am confident that they would say that I have changed quite a lot as a Pagan. It sure does not feel that way, at least to me. I still learn, every single day. I make mistakes all the time, even on the simplest of things. Each morning always feels like a new chance to try again, to explore somewhere I had never thought of going before, or to step back into an older part of the Path that I don’t recall as clearly as I thought I did. I wish I had known these things before I started because I feel I would have been a better Pagan, a better student for those who have mentored me on my Path. However, I do wonder how different a Pagan I would be today if I had known. It’s a nice exercise in “What-If”, but the answer to it I can never know. After all, my footfalls brought me here. I think it is very important that I acknowledge that over a dreamy thought of what might have been….if.
Not that long ago, I was asked why I do not have any students. I was flattered by the question, as someone thinks highly enough of me to believe I would be a good teacher or mentor to other Pagans. However, my response went along the lines of not really being qualified to teach anyone anything – except for myself. I really hate giving responses like that, but there is a seed of truth encased in there. I am not sure I would be what anyone would expect of a Pagan teacher. To put it in a different way, I would be the most unlikely teacher around. Sort of like Mr. Miyagi in the first Karate Kid movie. Just an awkward, ill-conceived set of approaches to topical matters.
Why would I say that about myself? Because I know what works for me. I am also aware of how it does not work for most others. The old saying goes along the lines of “when the student is ready, the teacher will come” – or conversely – “when the teacher is ready the student will come.” For me, any student that could conceivably work under the approaches that I use – well that one student may have to break one of my knees to get me to notice.
I am very flattered by the idea that I would be a good teacher. I am more amiable to the notion that one day I might make a good mentor. Not necessarily a teacher, but more of a guide for someone that is learning on their own. Someone that they could come to with questions when they get stuck on something. Naturally, I would be upfront about my own limitations. Magick is not, nor has it ever been my forte’. I can help in a crude measure of understanding, but someone looking for a smooth, sophisticated approach would do better searching elsewhere. Or, if they would like, I could point them in directions and towards people that I think would be helpful. Granted, some of those people may hold low opinions or even harbor anger towards me, but I don’t take people’s opinions of me into account when trying to help someone else find a better guide. Go to this or that individual – just don’t mention my name. 😊
To a point, I am confused why people would find me to be a good teacher. Its not like I am placing myself into a position that would advertise me as such. I have yet to offer a class of any sort – online or face-to-face – to the Pagan community at large. I have not taken a single student for one-on-one teaching. I have; however, taught in a collegiate classroom (for nearly three years), but I don’t see how that would ever bring me to the forefront of a conversation of who would be a good teacher. Plus, my approach to learning is to hand you the same resources that I used, tell you to go read, and when you felt like coming back – we could have an in-depth conversation. That’s it. No tests. No quizzes. No certificate of completion. No final assessment of whether you were a top student or just someone that barely made the grade, in my opinion. Just a discussion, held at your convenience. Preferably around a fire, late at night, out where we can see the stars as we hold our discourse. My kind of classroom.
I guess a lot of that comes from my perspective of learning about Paganism. Its not something you can get out of a book. A book should lead your mind to more questions, and a desire to explore for answers. A book should have you wanting to try to do things rather than learning my theory of how to do things. For me, learning about Paganism was about reading, questioning, doing, experiencing, being…. I didn’t need an individual who would sit and endlessly lecture to me about their way of doing things. They would talk about how they did it. If I had questions, I asked. Afterwards, I went out and did it…myself. I didn’t need their approval over any twists or changes or additions that I put to it. I took their framework and built my own on to it. In the end, it might look nothing like what they “taught” – and that didn’t matter to me, so long as it held meaning to what I was doing.
I will honestly and openly admit that many people will find the way I approach my Paganism to be distasteful and unappealing to them. Because I chose to discard traditional aspects for things that work for me. Because I set aside pre-printed rituals that arrive via the post office, in favor of embracing the moment. But I will also acknowledge that whatever works for them, works for them. I am more than thrilled that these methodologies work for them, because it provides an authentic feeling and connection to the world around them, a valid and strong connection with their Gods. There is no fucking way I would ever want to discount any of that for them, simply because they use a methodology that is not mine. That would be disingenuous to what Paganism is about to me, what true Paganism should be all about: the individual’s experience. Their connection with the authentic passion of their own practice – whatever it looks like.
My personal approach to my own Paganism, my own Druidry is uniquely mine. Parts of what I do overlap with the practices of others. While I feel the draw of being a mentor to others, I am not entirely sure what that would look like, considering the deep personal aspect that my approach holds for me. Perhaps, I will eventually find that one student that can meaningfully learn from my approach, and together we can explore what it means to teach that to others. In the meantime, the only way that I know to do this, is just to be myself. If that makes me a teacher…I am just as surprised as anyone else.
There are a lot of topics that occupy my thoughts, but the two that keep coming back more often than others are the most difficult ones to manage. Specifically, these two questions are “What kind of Druid do you want to be?” and “What kind of Priest are you?” I have struggled with both, for a lot of reasons. With my change in my approach towards Druidry within my life, I realized that it would be a good time to revisit these two questions again.
I have made very little secret that I have sought out professional help in working through my depression. Much has been accomplished in those sessions. There is much more to complete. In a recent session, a particular touchstone was uncovered, which has helped me towards answering the two questions at hand. If there is a single word to describe who or what I am, it is “non-conformist.” Going back into my sophomore and junior years of high school, I have always been determined to do things my own way. Even in a rigid frame of structure as the United States Air Force, I have always managed to carve my own Path towards whatever needed to be accomplished. I found ways of staying within the framework of what was asked, while putting my own personal stamp on how it got accomplished. Even to this day, I constantly find myself seeking my own way through an issue, rather than taking the footsteps of those before me.
Even within Druidry, I choose to do things differently. I have mentioned this before – I hate white robes. Here in the American South, white robes bring up a certain imagery that equates with a racial past that is entangled with the Ku Klux Klan. Plus, I think white is a horrible color on me. 😊 My preference is jeans and a t-shirt, along with my green cloak and tennis shoes. I have never been very partial to the idea of “dress-up” when it comes to my approach to my Spirituality. From what I have seen of various OBOD (Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids) and ADF (Ár nDraíocht Féin) gatherings – I’m very much in the minority on that perspective. I am however, quite “ok” with that. I have never been into the idea of finding out whether I am “Pagan enough” for others.
So, what kind of Druid do I want to be? Well, that’s an easy answer. I want to be the kind of Druid that I am right now. Handling my own Spirituality on my own terms, and always there to help others the best that I can. I would guess that the best term for this is that of the role of a mentor, but that is also not completely me. As the line from the Tommy Shaw song goes: “I don’t want to grow up to be a preacher. I don’t want your soul in my hands.” I have nearly zero ambition or desire to create/run my own Grove. A study group? Sure. So long as I am not the one in complete control.
What kind of Priest do I want to be? Well, I’ll defer this back to the “Druid” question. I have always been reluctant to completely embrace the “Priest” concept. Too much of a Catholic upbringing in all of that I guess. However, if we can somewhat equate Druid with that of a Priest, we begin to step into the ground I am more comfortable with.
Why that of a mentor? People will investigate my military background and assume that a role more akin to that of a warrior would be more appropriate. I’m more comfortable with being a teacher. I enjoy showing others some of the mysteries that are right in front of their eyes, and then watching as they move further along to investigate areas and concepts that catch their own interests. I get more joy out of watching others grow in their knowledge and understanding than I do in lecturing to them. Or trying to have them memorize material. I love to facilitate the directions that others can find for themselves. I didn’t teach anything to them – I merely opened the window and let the outside in.
In the past, I have always harbored this idea that Druids are Peacemakers. That the duty of every Druid is to step into conflict and help resolve issues towards peace. There are certainly Druids that do exactly that. I’m not one of those. I am not here to be an arbiter. I have no ultimate authority over any group of people, save for myself. I have enough trouble trying to decide what I want to have for lunch. No settling disagreements is not the place for me, unless I am invited in. And even then, I am reluctant to do just that.
Druidry means a great many different things to a great many people. Each of those people have their own individual way of seeing things – even they are looking directly at the same thing, from the same physical vantage point. We see things, we experience things, and we process that input (and so many more). Our minds sift through all that sensory information, and we utilize our experiences and our knowledge to come to a conclusion. Each of those conclusions are shaped by so many different perspectives, experiences, and understanding that nearly all will be different in one degree or another. We are unique beings with unique perspectives. You might read through all of this and come to a far different conclusion about what Druidry is or is not. That’s wonderful! Because you will see things differently as I have. Those differing perspectives will be everything going forward. These will provide a basis of better understanding one another. Those differing perspectives will also show us how the world around us is perceived differently by others. That will open a whole new perspective to us, a whole new way of looking at things. That, my friends, is the essence of Druidry (in my opinion). Being able to open one’s eyes to other perspectives.
What kind of Druid am I? I still fall back to what I have said before. I’m me. Nobody special, but somebody unique.
You made all those plans. You had each step planned. The first few steps went well. The next few steps went sideways. At the end, what you planned has been turned completely upside down, and does not resemble anything that you thought it would. As you sit in the middle of the smoking ruins, inconsolable over what has happened, your thoughts will eventually come to that inevitable thought: what do I do now?
I completely understand. Really, I do. I have been in this position more often than I care to remember. I can not only relate, but also am aware of the devastated feelings that come with it. I know how paralyzing it can feel, and how lost you can feel while your immediate world burns around you.
Realize this, this dream, this goal, this immediate world of yours may be destroyed, but all is not lost. Life will continue. Moving forward will be hard. However, it can be done. What I have found that works, are a series of steps – each building on the next.
Grieving and Anger
Be sad over what has happened, whatever it may be. You worked on everything, set plans into motion, and it all caught fire. You put a lot of your heart, soul, and energy into what you have done. Naturally, you will feel loss over what has happened. Don’t shove that aside. Feel that emotion. You need to grieve over this loss. Eventually, you will move forward from that point. You might even feel anger over everything. Don’t set that to the side either. Be angry. Its only natural to be pissed off that things didn’t happen the way that you wanted it to work out.
Today, we are constantly told to curtail our grief, and to let go of our anger. In my opinion, that can lead to repression of emotion, which can make things a bit worse. Let your emotions run their course. Be sad. Be angry. But make sure that neither of these emotions consume you completely. Feel your emotions, but don’t let your emotions become the absolute ruler of who you are. Remember, you are in control.
Re-Building and Re-Planning
Once you have let your emotions have their sway, the next step typically becomes either re-building or re-planning. You take the steps to rebuild your Life or approach to eventually move forward. Or you still want the goal or objective you were working for, and you set up a new course of action to achieve that – re-planning. In other words, you are not giving up. You are just re-visioning what needs to occur. This time, you will be more cautious, more attuned to what you were trying to do; to avoid the previous mistakes.
This phase, I have found, can take a lot more time than one might think. Preparation, setting down steps of action, getting things ready to go – all that takes a lot of time, effort, and forethought. So, what happens during all of this? Well, life, of course. You still must move on with the daily parts of life. Eating, sleeping, breathing, and whatever else you might need to do. However, I have found that there is one more thing to add – be positive.
Believe it or not, a positive attitude is helpful. Yes, I know it can be difficult to be positive when you are sitting in the middle of the smoking ruins of everything that you had planned. However, once you set things in motion to go forward, that positive attitude will be everything. Yeah, shit exploded in your face. However, once you get wiped off, and have a look around; you will find a new direction to go. Be positive about the changes, even when they don’t feel that great. That positive attitude will help you out more than you know. Don’t think it is all going to be awesome. There will be bad days. There will be stumbles. You will fall from time to time. It happens. That skinned knee is going to hurt. But it will heal.
Sacrifices and Endings
This is one of the toughest things to realize, and probably one of the most painful. To move forward, you may have to give up on something that means more to you than anyone can understand. No one is going to really be able to relate to the emotional pain of such a hard choice. There may come a time that you must let go of that precious aspect of you, to move forward. No shit folks, it WILL hurt. You may even have to backtrack along your Path to get back to where the last crossroads had occurred. There is nothing more painful than to walk back across territory that you had once seen as the perfect point in your life, just so you can get back to a choice that you had already been through. It’s painful and humbling.
Now, you are likely wondering how all of this applies to Paganism or even my Druidry? Well, I live my Paganism. My Druidry is a part of who I am. I go through this process in nearly everything that I do. It is not a perfect process – not by any means. However, it is an approach that has worked for me through most of my adult life. I have been through the agonizing aspects of this quite a bit. I have also been on the brighter, more positive sides of this as well. All of that is a part of life, a part of living. Perhaps, after reading this, you have decided that this would never work for you. That is completely understandable. Every individual person will find their own unique way of working through such moments in life. As individuals, we all experience differently. We all react differently. And that is a beautiful thing.
One of my favorite times of the day is when the sun starts making its entrance back into our daily lives. When that bright disc in the sky nears its rise over the edge of the earth’s curve. That period we refer to as “twilight”. As the sky goes from completely dark to the beginnings of the sky starting to lighten. The colors are amazing, as your eyes adjust with the slow procession of the sun towards the edge. Until the sun finally peeks over that curve of the earth, bathing everything in that bright light that will illuminate our environment for a time, and warm us to one degree or another. This is a beautiful time of the day for me. This is also a dangerous time of the day for me as well.
I am suffering from diabetic retinopathy in my eyes. Essentially, I have some hemorrhaging of the blood vessels in my eyes, due to periods of high blood sugars. To try and stabilize the condition, I have injections into my eyes at regular intervals. And I hate needles. With a passion. But that’s another direction in all of this. My eyes are their weakest during the morning and evening twilight hours. Walking around, no problem. Behind the wheel of a car? That is a different story. The world becomes a very scary, two-dimensional world. The location of oncoming traffic is a little difficult to discern. Thus, a scary and potentially dangerous situation for me. If I am out driving during the twilight hours, I will find somewhere to pull over until the world is much lighter or much darker.
As I write this, I am looking out the window to the west. The sun is setting, and the sky is a pretty salmon color. In a short while, everything will be set back into darkness. Over the weekend, I was an observer in Cat Treadwell’s Imbolc observance. You can find that on YouTube here. She had mentioned about living in the in-between spaces during this time. This resonated a chord with me, especially concerning my issues with depression.
My depression tends to take the form of a very dark environment, where you can see absolutely nothing. There is danger from objects you cannot see or even comprehend. However, like all my dark, depressive times, I know that eventually the environment will lighten – much like the time of twilight in the morning. So, I do take comfort in the knowledge that my depressive moods have a cycle of some type. Though the periods of darkness can be much longer in some cases in comparison to others. But I am also cautious during this time because I cannot completely trust my vision.
Imbolc is a time of new beginnings. I would also offer that it is a time to be cautious as well. Yes, Spring is coming. Yes, the world is getting lighter. However, weather patterns can sometimes fall back to the cold, dark aspects of Winter without a warning. Those moments can play havoc with one’s mind and mood. However, we can rest assured that Spring and the warmth of light will eventually come. Just as I can always count on twilight being over after a period – making driving not as dangerous for me.
The entire world is coming out of a long COVID nightmare. Vaccines are becoming available to the public in greater quantity. Yes, I am just as impatient as anyone else to get the two shots. However, we are in the twilight hours of this period of our collective nightmare. Much like my need to be patient for twilight to pass, so my eyes are better adjusted, I also must be patient for the vaccine. That means continuing my hyper-vigilance concerning protecting myself from others. I can only hope that others do the same.
I have electricity to keep my home lighted and heated during the Winter months. Granted, this time of the year is nowhere near as harsh as other parts of the world can get. After all, this is Texas. We’re not in the more northern climate zones. Winters here are generally mild. Summers…. well, that’s a time for a different post. However, I am reminded that prior to the wonders of modern electricity, lighting was achieved by candlelight. Imaging that for a moment, I can see where the light of the candle or even the light of the hearth was integral towards the promise of Spring. Light would be more abundant. Warmth would be far more plentiful. And that light was the measure of beating back the darkness.
My depressive state is already starting to have the first glimpses of light against my darkness. I am still cautious in my approach towards things being better than before. After all, there is always a chance of slipping back into the dark. My twilight seems to be on the near horizon. I cautiously hope. I realized that this also follows the cautious hope of the glimmer of Spring that Imbolc provides. So I am thankful that I have a compass, of sorts, to work with through Imbolc. For me, its something solid that I can grab a hold of. And that’s a good thing.
Today is a rainy day here in Hillsboro, Texas. As I sit here and write this blog post, I am reminded of the time of year. We are in the time of Imbolc on the Wheel of the Year. A time of new beginnings. For me, today is no different in that regard. In my life, I stand on the edge of new beginnings. I also stand at the edge of endings as well. After all, many beginnings in our lives are the start of new adventures. Much like Bilbo Baggins sprints down his Path to catch up with the dwarves on their quest to the Lonely Mountain, I find myself taking steps along a new portion of my own Path. Just as Bilbo left behind his contented life for new adventures, I leave behind pieces of my Past, and move towards a Future that holds some exciting promise towards the short-term. While a lot of other Pagan-y folks find Samhain to be the time of taking stock of how things have gone over a period of the year – essentially making Samhain akin to the secular concept of New Year’s Day – I find that this time lends itself better to my perspective of thinking.
I can understand that a lot of folks will read into this idea of new beginnings and think that I am changing and vacating my Druidry. Hardly. In fact, if anything were closest to the truth it would be that I am doubling down on who and what I am. I am a Druid. I am a Polytheist. I am a Pagan. None of that is part of any aspect of change. My approach to each; however, is subject to change. Parts of that are also in the mix of new beginnings. Much of what I am about to relay may come off like a batch of New Year’s resolutions, and that is exactly the point. Right now, my life is sitting off the railway tracks. Part of this is a process to right the train that is me, and get things rolling forward in a positive manner.
Exercise. Let’s face it. I am a chubby, out-of-shape, fifty-five-year-old man. I have underlying health conditions that are not in my favor where life is concerned. That means that I need to do better at keeping myself as healthy as I can. That means taking my medications at regular intervals, as prescribed by my doctor, eating better, and getting my fat ass out of my computer chair on a regular basis. I have already plotted a four-and-a-half-mile walk through the neighborhood, which is what I used to walk every other day when I lived up in the Corinth, Texas area. Add to that I’ll be adding some weight training, along with some stationary bike work. I know that I will probably not be able to hit every single day that I have planned for working out, and that is really “ok”. Just so long as I manage to do most of the times that I have laid out. I am not going to look like Arnold Schwarzenegger or Dwayne Johnson, but I will be a lot healthier than I am now.
Gwers Studies. My goal here is to be finished with my Ovate studies by the end of the calendar year at the latest. I have created a schedule for this as well, making sure that I do not push myself too hard. Recently, I have restarted my Ovate work, and am taking things very slowly and methodically. I have learned that it is far easier to move at a pace that I am comfortable with rather than push myself too hard. Pushing hard achieves burn-out status for me far too easily.
Online gatherings. This past year of COVID has taught me a lot about myself. I am a far more social creature than I had realized. Time away from Pagans that I truly love and admire has cratered my own feelings of loneliness and despair. I have eschewed online gatherings for quite some time, always sermonizing to myself that it does not replace the feelings that I have in face-to-face gatherings. The reality is that this statement is true. However, when online gatherings is all that is available during a time frame where a pandemic is raging throughout the country (much less the entire world), you work with what you have. Sure, I can grumble about it, but what is available is what is available. Today and tomorrow, I take steps in that direction with two online Imbolc gatherings.
I have spent an inordinate amount of time indoors in 2020. During that time, I managed to read three books. Three. Long past time for me to get back into that habit. Plus, I will be doing reviews on what I read from time to time. I also watched very little television and very few movies. I already have a list of tv shows to check out, as well as a grouping of movies. I seriously doubt I will be reviewing any of these, but I do need some leisure time in all of this. Plus, I purchased a Play Station 4 and am already scouting for games to play. However, I don’t want to get sucked down that rabbit hole too far. Games are nice for leisure, but I certainly don’t want these to dominate my free time.
Just as there are new beginnings for this time of year, there are also endings to be considered. Some endings are not worth the time to dwell upon, beyond acknowledging that things had happened. Others contain some important life lessons to put into perspective and think more deeply upon. Certainly, I have had some endings to things within my life. Most are quite personal, which I will not share here. Some are extremely painful to dwell on, others not so much. All have provided lessons that will help me find a better perspective towards walking my Daily Path. Some have involved people no longer being in my life, an aspect that has me mourning the loss of these folks within my life. However, life continues, and dwelling on these losses for too long of a time will stall the forward momentum I am trying to achieve. But as I stated, they will be mourned and remembered in a happier light by me.
Imbolc is a time of new beginnings. This is approximately the halfway point between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. The crops are growing again. Slowly, in this colder period, but the promise of lush, green growth is there. The beginnings of Spring are upon us. The beginnings of new endeavors are here as well. This is the reason that I see this time as a position where new resolutions for your daily Path can be made. The above is merely my perspective on this time of the year – my personal outlook on how I am approaching this new year. This is also a time of the year to be hopeful of what is to come…an outlook that I find encouraging with a COVID vaccine becoming more widely available. Change is certainly in the air. How you approach that is up to you.
The future of Paganism. A heady topic, to say the least, and one that many bloggers in the so-called “Pagan Blogosphere” have grappled with from time to time. Back in 2016, the Pagan news aggregate site, The Wild Hunt, published an article tackling just that perspective. Where would Paganism be in one-hundred years’ time? I was intrigued enough with the perspective that I wrote a post on the topic and published it nearly to this day (1/27) in 2016. I happened to catch this in my Facebook Memories, and jumped over to the post to read what I had written. Or I should say, what I had not written.
My post is vague on what I believe things would be like in forty to fifty years. I understand why I wrote it the way that I did. I am not one for looking to the future with a definitive perspective. For me, what is to happen has so many cross-roads and forks in the road, that it is almost impossible to determine which way anything will go. This time around…well, I will try to be a bit more upfront. I am sorry to say, my outlook is not very rosy. The time frame I chose was forty to fifty years. That puts things around the time of 2056 to 2066. So, I will continue to stay with that choice.
As a momentary aside, I will point out that much of this post is written from a perspective of Paganism within the United States. After all, I live here, and am a citizen here. That is not meant to spit on Pagans elsewhere in the world, merely that my viewpoint is narrowed to where I live. I cannot speak to how things are or might be elsewhere in the world, and certainly those that live in those parts of the world would be far better (and far more informed) than myself at expressing an opinion concerning that.
My first stop was on the concept of public acceptance of Paganism. There have been a lot of steps taken towards the acceptance of Paganism within the public sphere. I was a part of some of those steps. The more open acceptance of Pagans within the United States military services. Circle Sanctuary was an extremely large part of that push, providing information to military chaplain services, and helping those of us trying to gain equal footing on a spiritual level with our fellow brothers and sisters in uniform that practiced the “big five” faiths. That took a lot of time and effort, and that ball has been moved a few yards down the field, but there is still a lot left to be done. Much of that effort was done in the late-1980s to the mid-1990s, and yet there is still a long way to go before anything close to equality can be achieved. That was a little over twenty-five years ago. Using that as a poor measuring stick, I think that public acceptance of Paganism by 2066 will continue to move forward, but at a very small, incremental pace.
The second point that was made was concerning temples, sacred spaces or other venues that would be akin to the common day Christian church. I live in central Texas, just south of the Dallas/Fort Worth metro-mess. Here in this small, rural large town, there are seven churches within three miles of the house I live in. Seven. In the rest of the town, there are four more. Hillsboro is far from being a teeming metropolis. Yet, the number of churches is quite large for such a smallish population. To my knowledge, I’m the only Pagan living here. Certainly, there are far more Pagans living to the north of me. But even in the DFW area, I am only area of a handful…well, less than five…public Pagan groups. Two of those reside within the arms of the Unitarian Universalist churches. Not truly Pagan, but it is a start. The point here is that there are not that many spaces that can be construed as “Pagan” and temples or sacred spaces. But these do exist. By 2066? Well, I would posit that there would be many, many more. Not in the numbers that current Christian churches exist. I think only Starbucks rivals that number. However, I do see this number beginning to grow, but also at the incremental number that I have mentioned previously.
Now I will add a little bit of politics into all of this. Sort of. During this past Presidential election cycle, the divide between Republicans and Democrats was showcased quite emphatically. Now, forget the two people running for the position. Instead, let’s focus for a moment on the overall demographics of the voters. Republicans, particularly those red-hated MAGA idiots, self-identified as Christian people. Again, let’s discard the semantics over what Jesus would be like if He were here. Look at the numbers of these self-professed Christians. It is large. Once you add the self-described Christian folk from the rest of the populace – voting or not – the wider Christian belief system would probably be about one out of every two people. Probably not quite that number, but close. The wider Pagan community – the “Big Tent” or the “Umbrella” or however you want to classify it – would make up far less. Will the Pagan population be bigger by 2066? Of course, it will. The growth numbers bear that out.
However, let me throw one more perspective out there concerning all of this. I have no scientific data to back this up, other than my opinion. I do believe that many of the Pagans in 2066 will be unaffiliated within any organization – be it a Druidry order, a Wiccan coven, a Pagan seminary, or a national Occult group. I see the many Pagans going the route of what I call the “Do It Yourself Paganism” thematic. With more and more Pagan books showcasing ways for Pagans to manage their own Paths, I can see many folks choosing to go the DYI highway with their Spirituality. Something that I do not believe is a terrible thing. Though, I do believe that there is still a lot to be said about traditions and being with those of a like-mind. However, I am looking towards 2066 – not right now.
The future, as much as we want to keep pushing it back, keeps coming forward. With that future, comes new Pagans. With those new Pagans comes a desire to try “new” things or to alter things as those stand now. In my mind’s eye, for Paganism, 2066 will find its standing on the public stage a little different, but still as a background player in the play. I can see more places being designated as “sacred spaces” but nothing approaching the stature and number of today’s common-place church. The animosity of the Christian right towards any belief that is not theirs will continue, until social change takes effect here in the United States, and that is if it happens at all. Until that occurs, smaller belief systems such as Paganism will continue to hold far less of the spotlight in the world of Spirituality. I do; however, see changes coming within Paganism itself. A tidal change towards a more self-driven aspect of Spirituality.
Of course, with any future predictive analysis…I could be way off base. In baseball, there are always predictions on how bad a team will be. But a season is one-hundred-and-sixty-two games. Anything can happen. One only need to look at the miracle season of the 1969 New York Mets, a team that was left for dead before the season began. They went on to win one-hundred regular season games – and the World Series. You must play all the games to find out what the future holds.
Basic. Intermediate. Expert. Beginner. Level One. Baby Pagans. I have heard and read all these terms applied to magick and to practitioners of various Paths. I dislike every single one of them. Seriously.
I do understand their use though. Particularly in structured teaching environments. After all, at one point in my life, I was a collegiate professor. The concept is quite simple. It’s a concept of progression, pure and simple. Within the collegiate setting, the learning structure is setup to provide concepts that are mastered at each class level, and then built upon in the next. To use some of the vernacular that I am trying to discuss, think of it this way. You take a Wicca 101 class to understand the basics of what Wicca is, the simplest aspects of the ritual aspects, some divination techniques (maybe) and perhaps even some spell work. Once you finish with that, proving that you absorbed the information provided, you take the next steps towards more “advanced” techniques and concepts.
The same aspect holds true in…say, computer programming. You learn the basic syntactical rules of whatever language you are learning, along with how simple concepts such as loops, logical flow, and input/output. The next class builds on those concepts, while introducing more complex structures such as modular program flow or object programming. At the end of the progression of courses, if you pass, you will have gathered enough information that you can extrapolate on what you have learned to create your own techniques within the programming language. At least in theory.
Not a difficult concept to understand, eh? So why do I have a beef with all of that? I come from a collegiate background, certainly I can understand why such a systematic approach works well. Well, I do understand the approach. I will even admit that it works for me, to some degree. But I take slight umbrage at the terminology.
Underneath the veneer of these terms, an undercurrent of arrogance can occur. I am better than you because I am taking this ‘Intermediate” class within this Occult School of thought. Or to even utilize some of my own Order’s own perspective – I am better than these people in the Bardic grade because I have progressed to my Druid grade. The idea that one is better than others, simply because one has managed to progress to a certain level – well, that stuff tends to grate on my personal nerves.
Right now, I am in my Ovate grade within OBOD’s system. I have managed to get through my Bardic grade. That does not make me better than any single member of the Bardic grade. All it means, in my eyes, is that I have managed to accumulate the knowledge that I needed to within the Bardic grade. I am no better or less than any member at any level within the Order. To think otherwise, would be creating a classist state for the Order. In other words, I would be expecting to be treated as being better than those in the Bardic grade, simply because I was an Ovate. I certainly would expect to be treated differently as an Ovate than a Bard, simply because I am part of the Ovate grade. There are different expectations of members of each of the grades within OBOD, but no group is any better than the others.
So, I have a personal distaste of the perspective of classism when it comes to what one is or is not capable of within magick and Paganism, based solely on what they have learned or experienced. Sure, the concept of progression in what can be done makes sense. However, labeling it as “Basic”, “Intermediate”, and “Expert” can and does lend itself to an aspect of classism, which then lends itself to simple arrogance.
So, what do I propose that would be better? Or different? Honestly, I am not proposing that anything would be better. That is not a paradigm that I want to operate within. I am not trying to say that one technique is better than any other. What works for one individual does not work for another. For those that follow Major League Baseball, you will understand this example. Batting is a simple technique of getting your hands positioned correctly to be able to connect with a pitched ball. Every hitter develops a timing technique and a batting stance that allows them to (a) see the ball coming out of the pitcher’s hand, and (b) shrinks the strike zone to make it harder for the pitcher to throw a strike to them. Not every hitter adopts a stance that has them hunched over the plate, like Pete Rose did. However, whatever stance they adopt, is the one that they are comfortable with.
I see much of this in the same light. For some folks, this classist concept of learning magick works for them. They understand the progression. They are used to the procession of material from their mundane lives (typically within the Education system). It works for them, and that is a good thing. My preference is different. I work with material as I need to. I learn what I need to work with. Sometimes, it can be clumsy, but that awkward approach also helps me to learn.
If I am being completely open and honest, it is not the methodology and the approach that turns me off. Solely, it is the vernacular that creates my disdain. For me, the terminology is what creates a classist perspective, particularly when it has the denotation of one being better or more superior to another, simply because of what knowledge has been accumulated. But to be even more frank, I am not sure what verbiage could be utilized and applied that would not leave similar classist stains behind.
Yeah, perhaps I am howling into the wind, hoping for an echo from the canyon that is up-wind. This is not something I can find a solution for – even within my own personal thinking. Aside from remaining on guard for a potential under-current of classism or arrogance carrying me along, all I can do is hope that others do not succumb to those waters. After all, I can only control what I do, what I think, and what I feel. To do otherwise, in my eyes, would be unethical, as well as inappropriate.
Every day brings change. Each time the sun rises over the horizon, I am reminded that the day that is coming into focus will be different than any of those that came before. Sometimes, those changes will send Life in a different direction. Sometimes, those new directions will have you looking around at those still with you on the journey and seeing new faces. Sometimes, many of the faces you thought would be there forever are no longer there. You adjust and move on.
A short while back, I wrote about how my Druidry was not providing me with the focus that I needed. Not because it wasn’t working for what I needed. Rather, my Druidry was based on some silly notions of what Druidry was from an overly romantic and idealized perspective. Many folks read this and thought that I was abandoning Druidry. That was not the case. I’m taking the time to inventory what I need from Druidry and discarding the pieces that I don’t really need. In short, I am stripping my Druidry down to its nuts and bolts, so that I can build it back in a manner that works for me.
A few friends, particularly my more overtly Christian ones, felt that this was a moment to step in and hawk their brand of belief.
“Your Druidry and Paganism has failed you.” “Your misplaced faith has put you into the position of mental depression you are encountering.” “If you had a more rooted faith, you wouldn’t have the relationship problems that you have.”
Yes, I have had a lot of this hurled at me, particularly in the last few days. The reality is that my Druidry and my Paganism have not failed me. Neither are a cause of the mental depression that I am working through. Neither have a hand in the relationship issues that I have. To make another point, suggesting any of those three only suggests that attempt at bringing me to their faith has the trappings of a used car salesman than that of an individual trying to show how their faith works for them in their time of need.
I do; however, grok their perspective and, to a certain degree, understand their intentions. We don’t agree on religion, theology, spirituality, sports, politics, or how to hold a fork when eating. However, they are friends and only want to see me happy and smiling. So, I try my best to not be overly harsh when I emphatically put my foot down and say “no”.
Yes, I am currently going through rough times in my life. As I have said many, many times before – I have good days, I have bad days. Most of my days fall somewhere between those aspects of the spectrum. I do not really pay much attention to how I may seem to others, but I probably don’t laugh or smile nearly as much as I usually do. I probably seem to be more serious than I usually have been. I am likely a thousand times quieter than my Puckish self is usually. That is how it seems I am internally. That probably shows quite a bit externally too. Since that is not my normal mood as described by others, I am sure it shows more often now than before. Everything will eventually be fine. Just not right now.
My Druidry, my Paganism, my beliefs did not bring me to this spot. None of that caused the way that I feel. In the end, these will be some of the anchors that will bring me back to where I used to be. There is no failure in any of that which brought me to where I am now. My emotional scars that I tend to come from elsewhere. Those scars will heal in time. Right now, they are fresh and extremely painful. My Druidry, my Paganism, my Spirituality will help me to heal over time. But first, I must feel my pain. My pain will allow me to learn. And to be honest, no one can learn this for me.
I still have the same hopes. I still have the same goals and desires for where I want my Druidry and my Paganism to take me. However, the overall scenery has changed a bit. I have talked about how my depression feels like an all-encompassing darkness, where I cannot make out the features of anything around me. This morning, as I write this, I am watching a fog crawl into the area of central Tejas that I am in. I am reminded that the darkness I find myself in is much the same as the fog. It slowly crawled into my life. It will slowly clear as well. And in time, it may be back. Maybe less dense. Maybe more. I can’t really say.
So, for me, Life continues. I am not sure of the form it will take. But I know my Druidry will be with me through all of it. I know that my Paganism will continue to be with me. Not because I am a part of those elements – for I am. But because I am adding those elements to who I am. No offense to my Christian friends, but I have no need or use for your beliefs in these dark times in my life. I appreciate your desire to see me happy, but your beliefs are not going to do that. That is solely my job. My Druidry, my Paganism, my Spirituality – these all provide me with the connections that I understand and can use as I move forward. Without these, I would be completely rudderless in my own sea of despair. And I have no desire to float aimlessly through my Life. I have my purpose in my mind. I have my own goals that I have set.
Everything will eventually be fine. Right now, I have my own emotions to work through. I have my own mechanisms to explore, expand and repair. But everything will eventually be fine.
Too many hands on my time Too many feelings Too many things on my mind When I leave, I don’t know What I’m hoping to find When I leave, I don’t know What I’m leaving behind
Neil Elwood Peart / Gary Lee Weinrib / Alex Zivojinovich
Every day brings a new challenge. Every day brings a new perspective to see the world from. All of that can be marked down as being true. Except it is hard to see when all you encounter is darkness. Not that night-time darkness that your eyes eventually adjust to. Rather, that jet black darkness where you cannot even make out your hand when it is two inches away from your face. You have nothing to reach out towards that you can see. Any obstacle is completely unseen, and presents not only a tripping hazard, but has the capability to severely injure you if it has any pointed aspects or extremely sharp edges to cut you with. Welcome to my form of depression, in words.
Most of my understanding of the world around me comes from observing the perspective of other objects in relation to me. Door handles. The edges of tables. The hands of friends that I can reach out for to steady my balance. The steering wheel in my truck. My staff, if I am carrying it with me. All of these are things that I can reach out for to steady myself, to provide balance, to allow me a moment to regain balance. In that inky, black darkness, I have none of those things. This throws me off balance, and kicks in my fear that I may hurt myself in just trying to move. Thus, beginning my own internal paralysis.
There is a lot more to this scenario that describes my depression, much of which I won’t go into detail here. However, I do know the shape that my darkness takes in my everyday Life. Chaos. I am an ordered person. As an Information technology troubleshooter, my professional career is defined by an ordered flow of “if this, then this” which helps me identify where issues are located at, as well as determining how things get fixed. My personal life follows a similar Path.
When I take trips, I make lists of what is needed to be packed, the order that things go into the truck, and what I need to do to get myself into the truck and on the road. I know, it sounds boring and rote – and it is – but it is necessary for me, so that I don’t leave something behind. Yet, I always manage to do so. 😊
Over the last four months, my life has been turned inside-out, upside-down, and shaken hard to make all the loose change fall out of my pockets. When that was done, Life tossed me to the side, where I tumbled end over end. When I finally came to a stop, I was disoriented. I had no idea which way was up. I had no markers available to me to help re-orient my posture. The entire world also seemed to be spinning and tumbling out of control as well, which made things even more difficult. To put it into a single thought – I was lost.
During these four months, my Gods stepped back from me. That added another void where I had expected some aspect of stability and an ability to re-orient myself. I had none. That made things even deeper and darker for me. I began to realize what someone who had lost all their senses would feel like. What a scary world without sensation could feel like.
Due to a lot of personal issues, I was driving constantly through the backroads of Texas. Rarely did I stop between destinations because of COVID, and even then it was just to stand at a gas pump and fill my truck’s tank. A few weeks ago, I was driving back after a snowfall, which is rare for central Texas. Looking through the windshield, I could see the white-covered landscape.
There were very few vehicles on the road with me, so I stopped when I saw a little picnic area at the side of the road. I turned off my truck and got out to walk around. Just like the snowfalls that I remembered from winter walks near Vogelweh Housing near Kaiserslautern, Germany, the air was quiet. Like the whole world had drawn in its collective breath, and was quietly breathing slow, small breaths – not wanting to disturb the peace. I brushed off the seating at a wooden picnic table and just sat, taking in the scene.
That moment of serenity was a salve that I needed. My world got quiet. The wild whirlwind of chaos stopped within me, and that darkness parted enough for me to see strands of light. Once again, I heard Crow in my mind. “You need to be your own rock of solitude. You need to find your own peace. Through all of that, We are here. To reach out, you need to go back to your basics. Reconnect with yourself.”
For me, approximately 120 days ago, my life had radically changed. Everything felt like a whirlwind. Now the whirlwind has ended. What’s left of me is scraped completely bare, like a tornado had come through. Now, I can feel the quiet and calm after the storm has passed. Much like my Druidry is being rebuilt, I am now left to rebuild me as well. Slowly. Quietly. Without the chaos.
The darkness is still there though. It will always be there. It is not something I can remove completely. That’s because it is a part of me. That darkness is me. As I rebuild, I also must find a balance that works with it. That will take time, discussion, and patience.
I am not without tools or help. I am seeing a counselor, who has been of immeasurable assistance in understanding certain aspects that I have encountered. I also have Cat Treadwell‘s excellent book Facing the Darkness on my iPad as well. Where my counselor has trouble equating some of my Pagan perspectives to what I go through, Cat’s book bridges the gap in a most excellent and proficient manner. I am sure that I will find other tools to add to my rebuilding efforts. However, none of those can do what my friends do for me – provide balance, support, and unconditional love. Without that…without them, I would truly be lost forever.
Well, we have all seen the pictures and the images of the so-called QAnon Shaman. The entire outfit looks outrageous on the news. Many non-Pagans have likely been chuckling through it all. “Look at the weird guy in the weird outfit.” “What a typical, goofy Trump follower.” However, a lot of Pagan folk have been fairly upset by the image, and most particularly by the stylized descriptive of a “shaman”. I have read in quite a few places where folks are saying that this guy is a good example why gate-keeping in Paganism should be necessary. That this guy is an example of someone who needs to be told that he isn’t doing “Pagan” incorrectly.
I’m still of a different mindset. I believe that Paganism needs no gate-keeping. Certain traditions and mystery schools certainly do – and should. To be a part of that, you promise to adhere to the aspects of what that Tradition or mystery school is about. But general, everyday Paganism? No. At least in my mind. Others will disagree.
For me, I don’t have enough time to walk around policing Pagans over what I think they should or should not be doing. I have my own Spirituality to tackle. I have my own relationships with my Gods to work on. Add to that, I have other aspects of my life that are turned around, upside-down and inside-out. I have plenty enough on my hands to deal with. I certainly do not need to be in the middle of how others approach their Spirituality, no matter how superficial I may find it to be.
As you can tell, I am not a fan of gate-keeping within the general Pagan community. My personal perspective is that if I am busy trying to right myself after my own stumbles, I certainly do not have the room to critique others on the way they walk on their own Paths. To be honest, when I do encounter gate-keeping, I tend not to have a fond look upon it either.
Ok, so this so-called QAnon Shaman was wearing an outfit that didn’t just border on cultural appropriation – it scratched out the line and traveled right across it. Sure, call that type of shit out for what it is. But let’s also remember, people can – and do – cross the line into cultural appropriation without even realizing that they are doing so. Slamming them like an NFL linebacker eats a running back for lunch might not only be a little harsh, but it can also drive someone away from a Path that they are just exploring at this moment.
Now, I am not excusing this QAnon Shaman for his outfit or even for his actions. Nor am I slamming the folks calling for gate-keeping for their views. I’m only trying to point out that when encountering such an individual for the first time, it might be best to approach them lightly. To point out that…hey, that outfit disrespects several First Nations peoples, their traditions, and their Spiritual Paths. Or…hey, this might not be the best approach towards Paganism, if that’s where you are trying to go with this. Can we talk?
So, is this QAnon Shaman guy a Pagan? I don’t know. I certainly don’t care. Am I disgusted by his outfit and his actions? Certainly. I don’t really have any super-nice things to say. But to be honest, beyond that…I can’t really say much. I already have my hands full. As the saying says – choose your battles. I already have enough battles in my life. I know when I need to put some more of them back. As for others, who feel they need to be gate-keepers for Paganism…well, I don’t agree. But my hands are still full. This is also a battle I have to put back as well.
I do not write this blog to tell you how you should be doing your Paganism, or your Druidry. I write this blog to talk about how I do it. Not so you will do the same things that I do. Rather, in the hopes that you find inspiration from what I do to find your own way of doing things. For you to discover new aspects of connectivity to the world around you. I am certainly not here to make the rules for anyone to approach their own Paganism or their own Druidry. In my mind, that would be dishonest with my own approach.
It is Friday, and yes I am aware that I am a day late getting this out. No, I am not changing the blog schedule. Posts will still happen on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and once on the weekend…or as close as I can stay to that schedule. Life will still, sometimes, get in the way.
So, this morning, I am drinking my cup of coffee, and trying to figure out what to write. I am still working my way through my Gwers lessons. I am still putting my Druidry back together into something that fits better to me. At this moment, nothing is different from what I have explained to this point. So, there’s nothing new to add or share here. With Druidry being a mystery school, there are some things that I just cannot, should not, and would not share. Sharing certain aspects would remove the individual experiences for others…and I would not want to rob anyone of that.
For me, that leaves a handful of smaller topics that I just cannot write full essays on, and many of which are not truly Pagan in nature. So, I guess I can write some of these into some form of a blog stew – so to speak.
These last days of President Trump’s four years in the White House have become some of the zaniest stuff I have ever seen. I don’t talk much about politics for a single, simple reason: my opinion is my own, and should hold sway over no one but myself. But the last ten-plus days have just been incredible stuff. I never, not even in my most incredible nightmares, believed I would see a mob swarm the Capitol building in Washington D.C. Nor would I have ever believed that those people would be trying to stop the electoral process, or even attempt to hold members of Congress hostage (this has been alleged in the news through several sources). Yet, here we are – a little more than a week since that moment. There is nothing that I can say that will change the minds of people who cheered on what happened. For me, it was a repugnant moment in our collective American history. Those who defaced, destroyed, and defiled property should be held accountable to the highest extent of the law. Many of them were heard on video telling Capitol Police Officers that the Capitol building was “their property”. I agree with them. But it is also my property as well. Like them, I pay taxes. My taxes help to manage the upkeep of the property, pay the salaries of those that are there, and serves as a symbol of my government. None of that gives me, or anyone else, the right to destroy windows, doors, and artwork there. None of that gives me, or anyone else, the right to assault Police Officers or to make violent threats against the politicians that are there to conduct business on behalf of every citizen of this country. I don’t agree with a lot of the decisions that get made there, but becoming a violent hooligan is just flat out wrong. So enough on that from me…
I don’t watch much American football. The fact is that I find the sport to be boring. However, my family’s roots are from the Ohio/Indiana/Kentucky corner of the United States. My love of my ragged Major League Baseball team, the Cincinnati Reds, comes directly from that. So, when I saw that the Cleveland Browns had made the playoffs and would be playing the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first round…well, I had to watch. In the three some odd hours of the game, I kept looking up from the crossword puzzles I was working on. It was nice to see the Browns win. This coming weekend, they play the Kansas City Chiefs, a team that tends to be stated as “the best” football team in this current season. So, apparently the Browns don’t stand a chance. That was also said about the Browns/Steelers game – that the Browns had no chance. There’s always a chance. Right?
I have written about my struggles with my own mental health issues. Primarily, the focus has been on my decision-making processes. However, another area that I have been working with my therapist on is my self-image. This is rather hard to type. I have a lot of problems seeing myself as someone worthy of anything. I run from success. If you read enough of the blog, you will find areas where I self-denigrate and utilize self-deprecating humor. But in all of that, I did not realize that I had an unbalanced sense of myself between my work-self and my personal-self. Much of my sense of worth comes from the work that I have done for a living. This unbalanced aspect of me is not the easiest thing to realize, much less try to re-balance within myself. I write about stuff like this, in the hopes that someone else reads this and realizes that my issues are like theirs. So that they know that what they are feeling is not something unique to them, and that it can be worked on. People talk about the aspect of self-love, which is important. However, one of the first steps – in my opinion – is to determine where and how self-loathing is appearing in your life. Identification, again my opinion, is necessary to figure out what to do. That’s where I am. Yes, I will blog a bit more about it going into the future.
Last, let me finish this up with some fun stuff. Reading. I have been asked what I plan to read going into this year. My answer? I have no idea. In the past, I have set down a list of books that I was going to try and read through the year. All that really did was ramp up my anxiety, and made reading feel more like a chore, rather than a fun and informative experience. This year…I have no idea what I am going to read, much less how many books I plan to read. However, I will write mini reviews over on GoodReads on what I work my way through. I am not the world’s fastest reader either. So, don’t expect a ton of stuff to start pouring out of me there. The way I look at this now, if I read one book this year – I accomplished something.🙂 Reading should be fun, not some chore I need to tackle.
So that’s it. Nothing much more than that. I could talk about the Major League Baseball off-season, but that could be three or four posts in length, and this is not s sports blog. Posts like this…few and far between.🙂
One last thought….this came via my Facebook Memories from 2012 on this day (15Jan). ” The faery-dust of magick comes from your own belief that the impossible is possible.” In my mind, it certainly is.
Well, I finally did a restart on my Ovate grade studies. Back in late March or early April, I had essentially brought myself to a stop with my studies. Not because I really wanted to, though it could easily be surmised that it was in the back of my mind. Rather, it, and a lot of other things that I had been doing, were brought to a stop because of all the issues with COVID-19. From that point, all the way through December, I lamented the loss of some of the more social aspects of my Druidry. Sure, there were online gatherings, Zoom calls that could be made, and a lot of solo work that I could do; however, much of my Druidry is based on being social. Sort of a weird perspective for a solo Druid to have, huh? At the end of December, I made the decision to take a step back and restart.
Restarting my studies is nothing new for me. I think I did this at least five times during my Bardic grade studies. Some of that was beneficial for me, it allowed me to provide a better perspective on what I was doing. Some of it was detrimental to my studies, as I started to feel bored with rehashing the same material once again. So, when I started my Ovate studies, I had promised myself that I wouldn’t do a restart. If I got stuck, I might back up a Gwers or two, but I would not restart from the beginning. That was before I started pulling my approach to Druidry apart and refastening things again. This time; however, I decided to take a more methodical approach to my restart – a process I had never done with all the restarts in my Bardic grade.
In all my Bardic grade restarts, I would get stuck at various points in my studies. To try and remedy this, I would take a backward step of a few Gwers and go through where I had been in the hopes that it would restart my thinking process. Hopefully, this would allow me to move past my block. Sometimes that worked. Other times, it made my block even worse. When things would be worse, I would start all the way back at the beginning. When you do multiple restarts in that fashion, constantly going over the same ground you have already covered more than once….yeah, it gets monotonous very easily. Plus, that monotony can easily grow into frustration, and that frustration can be fed back on to yourself – starting a rather vicious cycle of self-doubt.
This time around, the restart comes as a result of me looking into my own approach to Druidry, removing things that were silly romantic notions, and then putting everything back together. One piece at a time. Now that I have a clearer focus of my approach to Druidry, a restart of the grade’s lessons seemed appropriate as well. I am not ditching the observations that I have made along the way. Rather, I am augmenting those observations with what I know now. Some of it will have changed. Some of it may not have. What has changed will be noted. What hasn’t will also be noted with how I found my original notation to continue to be true.
Now with that said, let me explain how difficult this can become. Starting over means coming back to the beginning and walking in the same footsteps that you did before. On the one hand, you take the exact same steps, finding nothing new, and continually berating yourself for kicking off such an exercise in futility. That can result in a bit of negativity towards yourself and short-circuiting a solid, fresh, positive approach to what you were trying to do in the first place. Or, you find that you don’t quite “get” what those first steps were, finding a completely different approach to what you had already done, which makes you begin to doubt everything that you have done – essentially eroding your self-confidence. This second point is the little down-the-drain cycle that I found myself in with all my restarts in the Bardic grade. In the end, I trashed all my previous notes, restarted my Bardic grade from scratch, and pushed my way through all the blocks. It wound up being the best approach that I had, and my persistence in making things go wound up being what I really needed. In my case, every restart – including the one that worked – could be recanted as me over-thinking things.
My restart with the Ovate grade has been one of necessity, especially since I had spent time rebuilding the basis of what my Druidry is to me. That rebuild has forced me to see things from a much different perspective, and that very different approach really mandated a restart. And that brings me to where I am now.
To be open and honest, I don’t believe that the process of working through the Gwers materials is really meant to follow the constant start and stop process that I have been going through. Yet, here I am. With my habitual over-thinking, every stop can be an invite to over-analyze the “why” of things. My challenge at this point is to bring that to an end. To not start analyzing why I came to a stop, and just find a way to get things going again. For me, that can sometimes be quite a formidable task. But I do the very best that I can. Sometimes I will manage to get things going again, sometimes I won’t. The key, for me, is not to beat myself up over the feeling of a “lack of progress,” while also trying not to compare my progress to others. My studies are my own, at my own pace. For me, these are the ghosts that I spend most of my time fighting while moving through the Gwers.
In the end, that’s the truest key. Moving at the pace that is most comfortable for you, while not comparing yourself to others. These studies are the same for every individual, but what you squeeze out of these studies is very much your own. I know it can be tough to see it from a position of individualization, but it certainly is. The kind of Druid that you become through these studies is completely up to you. For me, that’s the primary key to everything – you will become the kind of Druid that you need to become. Nothing more. Nothing less.
Through the process of reworking aspects of my Druidry to fit me, and not the other way around, I have hit one particular point that has become more and more important to me through each passing day. Boundaries. Not just creating my boundaries, but enforcing them. Every day, I run into another moment where I did not realize that I was allowing my boundaries to be bent or violated to a point where I was actually uncomfortable. Some of that…not all of it though…came from romanticised notions that I had of what Druidry was to be for me. So, lately, much of what I have been doing is a two-fold process of rebuilding my notion of what modern Druidry looks like for me, and how that interacts and informs my boundaries that I set in place for myself.
Since I started talking about this process of reworking my way through my own Druidry, I have had a few inquiries into what that process looks like. Well, reworking my way through my druidry had to start with one primary point – what am I looking to get out of the studies I am undertaking in the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids (OBOD). After that, I needed to take a stronger look at what kind of Druid I was wanting to be. Lastly, I will need to take a look at what may or may not lie on the road beyond here. All of that will help me to enforce what boundaries I hope to enforce within my life. As much as I want to say that I can divorce my Druidry from who I am, that’s just not a true statement. However, I am the one that provides the definition of what Druidry means to me, and how that defines and shapes who I am.
What Am I Getting From This? What Do I Hope to Get from This?
I decided to add two titles to this particular section, because it is a two-fold question. What am I getting out of these Druidry studies? And what do I hope to get out of these Druidry studies? These two questions form the goals of where I am headed. And honestly, once I finish the Ovate grade – and if I get accepted into the Druidry grade – I will have to ask these questions again. Because goals change over time. Goals change as you change.
So, what does working through these Druidry lessons provide for me? Well, I am handed a different way of looking at things. A different perspective of the world around me through the same window I have been looking through. I am also provided with some tools in approaching that environment, as well as tools for approaching my own self. Many of the lessons provide challenges for me to work through/with, so as to open my eyes to a different way of seeing things. Honestly, I can’t go into too many more specifics, not without ruining the experience for others. That’s part of what a mystery school is about – keeping the specifics to yourself, so as not to spoil the entire experience for others. Because we don’t experience the same thing the same way. As for my hopes of what I get from all of this – well, my own personal expectations comes from wanting to find another way to see things. Because sometimes, we need a new approach to help us to see and understand what is in front of us. Thus far, my Druidry studies have constantly and consistently brought a different approach to me with which I work with.
I think its important to add here that all of this is my singular approach to my studies. Others will have different needs of their studies and will have different aspects provided to them through the materials. I can honestly say that no two people will get the exact same experiences from any set of studies that they undertake. Whether those be Pagan or mundane in nature.
What Kind of Druid Am I Looking to Be?
This particular question is part of why I stopped and started dismantling what I have already learned. My idea of Druidry and what I was seeking to be was a romanticised notion of what Druidry is. I wanted to be the Druid that stepped in to solve disputes, that Druid that had answers for others. Truth be told, that’s the romantic, druid, peace-maker, bullshit that really doesn’t do anything for me, except to place me in a spot where I should never be. In fact, that romanticised aspect of Druidry only helps feed into a mindset where my boundaries are constantly and continually violated in the name of the needs of others.
I’m not sure I have this little adage correct. But a long time back on my Pagan studies, I was told that one cannot be of adequate help to others when one is in need of the same help. Or something like that. For me, at this point, the best kind of Druid that I can be is one who points you to the help that you need. While I am picking up the scattered (and sometimes broken) lego pieces of who I am, it is really difficult to be in a position to help others with finding ways to put things together in their own lives. My desire is to be a mentor to those first starting in their Pagan Paths, helping them sidestep some of the major potholes that are out there, and getting them to the mentors/teachers that they need. I am not the final stop for any learner (no teacher really is), but I remember quite well how confused and alone I felt on my Path in the very beginnings. The kind of Druid that I hope to be is more of gentle guide/mentor, helping others to find their own Paths that work for them. That doesn’t mean that anyone who comes to me for that kind of assistance would automatically be pointed to Druidry. Just because this is the path for me does not mean that I think it is the path for everyone. Hardly.
Now that’s where I hope to go with my Druidry. At the moment; however, I have the cart that is my Spiritual Path at the side of the road. I need to repair a few things before I continue.🙂
What Do I Hope to Have Happen Beyond This?
This is probably the trickiest question that I could ask myself right now. As I noted before: goals change as you change. However, where I am right now is where I will focus from. I hope to finish my Ovate grade and be allowed to continue into my Druid grade. I hope to finish that grade as well. After that, I am not sure. Maybe studies with another order – most likely not ADF. ADF’s focus is far more along the lines of ritual than I wish to go. However, I hope to maintain good and friendly relations with ADF members going into the future. They are just very different Druids than I am – and I am well aware of how different their direction is from my own. I hope to become a functioning Priest of some sort through my studies with OBOD or even within another Druidry order. However, that part of my Path is so far into the distance that I can hardly make out the footsteps that I may have to traverse at that point. That is an approach that I just cannot foresee at this moment. Beyond all of that, I have stronger ties that I need to make with Crow and Abnoba going into the future. My approach to Druidry is not going to blunt my relationship with my Gods, even when They have become quiet at this point along my Path.
Much of what I have explored here are personal perspectives and goals. Much of this is still evolving in my thought processes. None of this is really “final” in my mind nor will it ever be so until I pass from this plain of existence. And maybe, not even then. For that part of my Path, I have no idea what will take place. Sometime in the near future, I will need to stop, and take some time to reevaluate all of this. As I said, goals change as people change. I can say that much of this is not the goals of where I was, say, ten years ago. I am not the same Pagan I was ten years ago. I am not the same Druid I was ten years ago. I am not the same person I was ten years ago. My perspective was different then. My connections to the world around me were different then. Some of all that is still the same, but not much of it. We grow. We change. We evolve. We understand things differently over time. So, in the future (not so far away), sitting down and seeing how things have changed, how my goals have altered, how I have grown – all of that and more will need to be reevaluated. But for now, this moment, this is where I am.
Towards the end of the 2020 year, I wrote several posts that discussed how my Druidry needed to change in order to work better with where I am, and where I intend to take my Spirituality. To put it into a more appropriate context, this is a lot like trying to add upgrades to a car. Much like that process, the first steps are to tear things down completely, see what you have to work with, and then rebuild from the base up. For me, I have essentially just disassembled everything within my Spirituality, and am now working through what I have available to me.
In a previous post, I discussed how my Druidry placed me in a position of danger. This came from a perspective of seeing Druids as “peacemakers” and that Druidry was about trying to soothe over ruffled feathers from any direction. While there are likely folks within Druidry that will see both of those as correct perspectives for their Druidry, it’s not for my own. The first steps for me in this entire process is building my new boundaries of where I will allow my Druidry to take me, and where those boundaries will limit who gets to cross through into what I do.
I have spent countless hours thinking about and slowly developing my personal boundaries. For those who think its an easy and seamless process – bully for you. For me, its not been an easy process, and is continually being shaped as I progress through what I am doing. My personal boundaries are in place for me, not for others. Coupled with my own identification of where my limits are at, it means that my Druidry will not allow me to be reckless or overly open with my own personal energies. This is a major change for me. I cannot just extend myself for any individual any longer. For me to be anything for anyone else – I have to be something for myself first. Think of it in terms of making sure that you have things covered for you before you try to cover the same things for others. A good example of this is when flight attendants will tell you to insure that your oxygen mask is on before trying to help others get theirs on.
There is more to all of this, though. When rebuilding a car, all of the body parts are taken to a particle blast to remove paint and expose the bare metal. By doing this, flaws in the body work can be uncovered and repaired. Bad repairs will also be exposed, so that those can be dealt with as well. This is a process I am still working through. For instance, as I pointed out, my ideals behind what Druidry is – in respect to what I do in my own Spirituality – have now been challenged. And found lacking in some respects. Now, I am going through the process of repairing some of this additional shit that no longer applies. Well, not really repairing. More like removing. By doing so, I am rebuilding the body of what my Spirituality is by finding the definitions that really speak to my Spirituality, uncovering the concepts that have primary meaning to who I am – and finding how these apply to who I am.
So, what kind of Druid am I? Well, I’m still me. I don’t really like the idea of pushing the definitive aspects of myself into a single descriptive hole. I’m just me. The kind of Druid that I am? Again, I’m me. Currently, I am studying under the system provided by the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids (OBOD). But when I am done – wherever the end of that road winds up being – I am still just me. What I learn through OBOD is good material. Will I use all of what I learn? Probably not. But I will adapt what I learn that is useful for me. Will I learn from other systems? Possibly. Will I learn from other Paths? I already have. Some of what I have already learned is what makes me who I am today. Some of it, is just knowledge that I have squirreled off to the side. It’s not a part of my Spirituality, but its a part of a toolkit that I can pull out when I need to, and alter as I feel I need to. I am not bound to any particular methodology.
Not that long ago, Shadow had referred to me as being like the Mandolorian on the Disney+ tv series. I do what I have to do to get things finished. Sometimes, it’s not the most polite way to achieve the ends to that means. However, it’s the toolkit I had in hand at that moment. I’m not on my Spiritual Path to make other people happy. But I have certainly walked my Path in that matter. I can’t do that any more. At least I can’t do that, and stay true to who I am, and where I am meant to walk. I have to change the ways that i have done things in the Past, so that I can continue forward. That goes for my Spirituality as well. I am finding that my Path is starting to dip to areas I had never considered before. A darker side of the forest, if you will. For me to walk here, I am going to have to be far more true to myself than I have been.
I still have a long way to go before I can start fine-tuning the motor, before I can paint the body, before I can work with the interior – but this is a start. Yes, I will continue talking about the steps that I take, here on the blog. Yes, I can guarantee you that there will be many people that will disagree with some of the things that I do and some of the changes I make. But I can promise you this – what I do will be true to what I need to do. Your mileage will definitely vary.
I am writing this post as the 2020 Year starts to wind down. The coming year holds a lot of promise and hope, but the reality is that we will not find either until we find that in ourselves. The removal of Donald Trump as President may solve a few things and relieve some of the pressure in various areas. COVID vaccines will hopefully help bring the virus under control and allow us some degree of normalcy in our lives, which we haven’t seen since March. But let’s consider both aspects as symptoms that allowed various things to come to fruition in our lives just a little faster. COVID removed some of the immediacy that we had in some relationships while forming new ones that we never saw coming. COVID also brought some realities of our lives to the forefront that we had never considered. In the end, some of that happened for the good of things, and in others created utter devastation that we could never have imagined. After all, life is short. We need to live with no regrets.
2021 is not going to be better just because Joe Biden is President. The only way it gets better is when we start to take stock of who and what we are. Me? I’m a Pagan. I’m a Druid. I’m me. And I have my own problems that I have to figure out, for myself. My world is different now. In complete darkness, I am trying my best to pick up the shattered pieces and rebuild something that resembles a fucking life. So, for me, 2021 is not about hope. It’s not about the promise of things getting better. 2021 will be about finding myself again. 2021 will be about being able to look in the mirror in the mornings and see some kind of day that I can move forward in. And I sincerely believe that we will be doing much the same thing as a collective society.
Who are we? What are we? What are we going to believe? As a collective society, we are going to have to take a few moments, catch our breath, and consider quite a few things about the world around us. Racism is not dead. ‘Us v. Them’ is still alive in every corner of our lives. Discriminating against others because of differences – whatever those differences are – is far more pervasive than we thought. You can see it right out your front door if you look deep enough. But finding it, pointing it out, getting others to see it – that’s the easy part. Thanks to the last four years, we’ve all seen it. The bigger question is ‘what now?’
I am really the wrong person to be asking where things are going or even how do we get there. I’m an idealist. I prefer to see the good in people. I expect people to defer to doing the ‘correct’ thing, the necessary thing. And typically I’m disappointed every single fucking time. It’s gotten to the point that I no longer hope for people to do the right thing. I expect the worst. And with my state of mind, I can expect some really, really bad shit. Stuff that I really don’t care to entertain in my thoughts whatsoever. Because I have seen the worst that human beings can do to each other. And it’s not pretty.
So all I can really do is answer the questions from my own perspective. Who am I? Well, that’s easy. I’m a Pagan. I believe that the natural state of the world is best when mankind stops fucking with it. I’m a Druid. Because I believe the concepts laid out in Druidry are some of the better starting points in how we can deal with one another on a daily basis. And I’m me. Because I believe that individuality is important, particularly in a modern, plastic world that emphasizes that everyone should be the same in their daily approach to Life. Being you is more important than anything else. Your uniqueness brings more beauty, life, and sanity to this world than anything else possibly could. That without you, the world loses a little of its vibrancy. What am I going to believe? Well, I am going to believe in you. That your presence; however small you may believe it to be, brings everything together. And that without you, the world loses a bit of its beauty. Yes, this even goes for me…digging my own way through the deeper recesses of who I am. I believe our differences make us stronger, and that does not dilute the so-called “purity” of what we are as humans. Our diversity is our strength because we can see so many different perspectives. Some even diametrically opposed. Those differences allow us to find unique, stronger solutions. But only when we listen. Right now, we have closed our ears to that perspective…for whatever reason.
2021, not 2020, offers us a chance to move in a different direction. But like a large ship on the ocean, it takes a while to make a new directional change. We’re not going to shift ninety-degrees immediately. It will take time. It will take effort. It will take conscious thinking on everyone’s part. And it will take forgiveness. Not just of those who voted for Donald Trump. That’s small stuff. We are going to need to forgive our collective selves. Forgive ourselves for allowing things to happen, and then get started on doing things right. No pointing of fingers. No assigning the blame. We can deal with that much, much later. We are hurting now. We need to bandage the wounds and start the healing process. We can figure out who is to blame much later on.
Again, we need to decide who and what we are. Are we a mob demanding immediate justice? Or are we people who seek to first find healing and help for those in need? For me, it’s obvious…I prefer healing and help first. Those in need should always be first and foremost. The next question…is how? That’s where the rubber meets the road.
Well, we’ve reached the point where the blog goes dark for a short while. There won’t be anymore posts for 2020. I will; however, be writing during the time that I am not posting. Yes, I will be doing what I have said that I don’t do – creating a small army of posts that I can draw from. I just won’t be posting what I write. The idea here is to give my brain a little bit of a rest, and make posting to the blog feel a little less like a chore. Ya know…to stimulate the creative juices, so to speak.
Let’s take a look back at 2020. Don’t grumble. 2020 definitely was a bad year. But even in a bad year, there are lots of lessons to be learned from what has happened. Both personal and on a wider public scale. Some of it hurts to talk about. Some of it…well, we really do need to talk about it.
Why don’t we come to terms with the facts There’s a method behind all this madness We must be blind not to realize We’re all victims of chance now Talking ’bout what everybody’s talking ’bout I wanna talk about, we gotta talk about it
In Dweezil’s song, the lyrics state that we need to talk about it, so let’s talk about it.
Probably the largest issue that faced us all was COVID-19. No, not President Donald Trump’s antics and statements. I’ll come to that in a minute. However, COVID-19 was the most disruptive aspects of our lives from somewhere in March to today. In that time span, this virus has changed the way we deal with one another on a daily basis. Well, for most folks it has. There are those that continue to call the virus a hoax and refuse to follow the concepts of masking-up, washing your hands, and practicing social distancing. “Don’t want to be afraid of a virus.” Yeah, I can understand that, but only to a point. As I have stated over and over here on the blog – I have underlying health conditions that require me to be a bit more cautious. Contracting the virus could literally kill me. But from this particular issue of combating the virus and staying safe, comes two more points to consider for this post. First, the division that these safety procedures have created between those who follow the safety protocols, and those who deny that the virus is even real or as deadly as has been reported. Second, what happens if these deniers do not get the vaccine that is currently in the early deployment stage to the public?
I have been in three distinctly different areas of Texas over this time period of the virus’ existence. Denton (a small city located just north of the Dallas/Fort Worth metromess), Hillsboro (a small, rural town located just south of the Dallas/Fort Worth metromess), and the huge metromess of Houston. Thinking of the size of each population, I would have expected to find more people not following the COVID-19 safety protocols in Houston. However, the exact opposite has been the given here. With the sole exception of a single day that I happened to shop inside of a local WalMart. Everywhere else I have been, the large majority of people are masked and practicing social distancing. Its actually the smaller-sized community that was the opposite side of things. When I have been in Hillsboro, I have routinely seen people not wearing masks, gathered in small crowds, and not socially distancing at all. Denton, which is a fair-sized college-based town, seemed to have similar levels of not following the protocols that Hillsboro had. What conclusion can I infer from all of that? Well, its not scientific or based in numerical aspects. However, I would conclude that the more rural areas treated the virus far less seriously than the environments where more people happened to reside. The larger the community, the more serious the measures following COVID-19 safety protocols were taken. Not scientific or fact-based at all…merely my own observations.
The second largest issue, and the one that seemed to generate more opinion and perspective throughout social media was current President Donald Trump. Whatever the Donald did, it was scrutinized, criticised or praised from nearly every corner of the World Wide Web. His followers proclaimed him as a stealthy genius. His critics offered up a cartoonish image of an over-sized infant pitching a titanic tantrum. The reality of his four years as President are that he was ineffective on most subjects, and where he was not, he stumbled to get to the right footing. Here, at the end of a Presidential election cycle, the Donald is raging against the outcome, claiming he was cheated. Interestingly enough, this position of crying foul has been rather common in American politics for nearly two decades now. The difference is that no one has continued to cry foul over the recount processes. American politics used to be about accepting losses at the polls, vowing to win in the next election cycle, and moving on with life until then. However, our election cycle did uncover one extremely ugly truth. We are far more divided amongst ourselves as Americans than united. In my opinion, because we cannot accept the losses and move on as Americans, we have created the largest two-party rift ever in the history of this country. We can thank Donald Trump’s usurpation of the Republican party for that, as well as the Republicans for being led down that path by their collective noses. And to some degree, similar rifts have occurred in the political world around the United States as well. Folks, when political and ideological rifts like this occur…major wars are typically not far afield.
The next big issue, for me, has been the challenge of handling my own mental health issues. Yes, I have depression. That depression has fed into other aspects of my life, and has made things difficult – if not impossible for me. While I still scoffed at the idea that I had mental health issues, I have sought out help. I never felt like I was depressed….even though I had no personal experience with the feeling, and thus no perspective to work from. I have friends who have been diagnosed with depression. I have friends who battle their own demons daily. Many of them saw their own struggles occurring within me. They spoke up. They asked – even begged – for me to seek help. Again, not having anything to gauge my understanding of what depression was and how it felt – I still scoffed. But I knew all of these people were speaking out in concern, and love. It took convincing, but I have taken that first step – seeking help. If you have that “lost” feeling, but don’t consider yourself to be depressed because you don’t know what depression feels like – do what I did, and seek help. It might not be depression, but a different perspective can always help you find your way back.
The death of Eddie Van Halen was an extremely difficult moment for me. When I first found out about rock and roll, one of my cousins had played the first album for me. Jokingly, we would refer to Eddie and Alex as “lost members” of the Van Hook family. Eddie was an original guitar hero of mine. The sounds he could elicit from a guitar were just incredible stuff. I had never heard sounds like that before. A few years later, I would “discover” Randy Rhoads’ playing with Ozzy Osbourne’s first solo album, and Eddie was replaced at the top of the guitar player pile. It is fairly well documented that Eddie was an asshole to many people, particularly Michael Anthony – the original bass player for the band. Nonetheless, his talent and creativity with a guitar have always been incredible. The music industry lost a talented player in 2020.
My last, “gotta talk about it” moment of 2020 was the May 25th death of George Floyd while in the custody of the Minneapolis police department. So many protests were sparked throughout the country from this single incident. And even with COVID-19 running rampant, people still came out to protest. People wanted the officers, particularly Officer Derek Chauvin, to be brought to justice for such a brazen, disgusting, public display of police brutality. Many of my friends chose to take to the streets of their local municipalities to show their anger and disgust over what these officers had done. I absolutely agree with many folks who are asking for police reform, banning brutal tactics such as kneeling on the necks of individuals who are considered to be resisting arrest. Furthermore, I am a firm believer that many of the incidents that occur could be handled better by the officers by using deescalation tactics. Particularly in stops where the officer is Caucasian and the individual being stopped is a Person of Color. Police Officers are emblematic of their communities, and should provide proper levels of decorum to the individuals within their communities. I can assure you, if officers treated everyone like a valued person, rather than as something akin to an animal, I believe far less of these various stops would be violent in nature. Notice I said far less, not all. I am also not in favor of defunding the police departments. Rather, I am in favor de-militarizing the police departments. Just north of Hillsboro is the slightly larger town of Cleburne. Here, their police department has a military-style assault vehicle decked out in the police department’s normal vehicle colors. While I do not think that the city would have need for such a vehicle…I would certainly be interested in what the declaration was that made the purchase of this vehicle necessary. As for defunding, no thank you. Certainly, police budgets need to be heavily scrutinized and funding cut for unnecessary needs, such as these urban assault systems. But let’s remember that the police department needs to be funded so that officer can be paid for the services they should be providing to the community. And that appropriate training for them also needs to be funded, so we can have police departments that are truly in a position to serve and protect their local communities.
Now, you are probably noticing that much of this is fairly political in nature. That’s correct and intentional. This is a Pagan blog. I am a Druid. I try to stay between those lines as much as I can. I am; also, a member of the wider aspect of society. I watch. I observe. I listen. I form my own opinions on things. The Gods know damn good and well that many people are not going to agree with me on a lot of this stuff. I am not worried about that one bit. Because everyone has to make up their own minds and find their own footing around topics such as those above and so many others. This year, 2020, I made a promise to myself not to delve too deeply into politics….knowing that a Presidential cycle was underway. I also tried to stay outside of the Black Lives Matters issues, even though I do fully support them. Why? Because all of you reading this are adults. You can read. You can watch and listen to the news. You need to make up your own minds, and my opinion should carry very little or no weight in your personal process. You are intelligent, caring, loving, and understanding people – for the most part. I have always believed it is important for you to derive your own perspective through your own research. Yes, I understand that reading my blog – essentially my own personal opinion – is a type of research. but as I pointed out above…I’m a Pagan. I’m a Druid. And I try my best to drive between those lines the best that I can. But as this post is meant to showcase, I do have opinions and perspectives on stuff. Sometimes….I say something.
As I am writing this, I am watching and listening to the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids (OBOD) “Online Winter Solstice, Alban Arthan Ceremony“. As Eimear Burke, the Order’s Chosen Chief, noted – an online ceremony is not what anyone would have envisioned for this time of year. Certainly, an online ceremony is not exactly the type of connection that I felt I may be having with the other members of my Order. The feeling I have in all of this is that of being a touch disconnected. A feeling of everything not being what I have had previously, during the celebrations I have attended in the past.
Many people would assume that this has a lot to do with my current state of depression and dropping mental health. Certainly some of that has played a part in my feelings of being disconnected. But only a small part. Whether I want to truly admit it or not, I’m a social creature. I need face-to-face connection to feel that deeper connectivity. The last time I saw any members of my Order was in March of this year, at Austin WitchFest, when I happened to cross paths with John Beckett. The last event of the Order that I attended was back in March of the previous year, as this year’s Gulf Coast Gathering was cancelled due to concerns over COVID. Prior to the cancellation, I had debated whether I would attend, knowing the dangerous aspects of contracting the virus, given my health conditions.
The lack of connection with the members of my Order has taken its toll on me. Not so much as a Druid though. Other factors in my life have done that for me. However, I’m in no danger of leaving Druidry behind. Rather, I am in the process of redefining its purpose within my daily life. A process that will take a good bit of time. What I miss the most is the interaction with the members of my Order. This is what 2020 and Covid have essentially robbed me of. However, kicking my feet and wailing to the wind won’t make things different. Certainly, I might feel good after doing such things but none of that solves a single thing.
The Order’s Winter Solstice celebration is a nice moment for me to take in. However, it is a difficult reminder of what I do not have within my Spirituality at this moment. It is also a reminder of how many people are always there by my side. In the upper right corner of the screen in the OBOD video, is Kristoffer Hughes, someone who has always known how to bring a smile to my face one minute, and a shocked look to my face the next minute as he picks me up and squeezes the air out of me with his big bear hugs. And there are so many others that my mind brings forth. Papa Bear, Kathleen, Gabby, Wanda, Frank, the two Jacobs, Wendy, and everyone else that have made the Gulf Coast Gatherings into an expression of family. As well as putting up with my ridiculous shenanigans during camp. These online celebrations are always moments that remind me of what is missing within my own Spiritual life.
I am also reminded that life changes every single day. That what has happened yesterday is not likely to happen in the exact same way today or even tomorrow. That what happened an hour ago can be diametrically different than what happens right now. That what is happening now in this time of darkness, both COVID and my own depression, is not likely to continue. Each step we take is different than the footfall we just left behind. Somehow, some way, it is a matter of groping in the dark until we can find something to hold on to, something to gain strength and balance from.
We have reached another Winter Solstice in our lives. This one looks and feels different from any of the ones we have known, though it really is not. Our disconnected lives here in 2020 only provide an unfamiliar backdrop.
The central and essential thought of Alban Arthan is renewal. We let the past behind us and greet the new. The world is undergoing constant change and we must change and adjust, too, in order to be able to survive. Change is inevitable. The German poet Heinrich Heine said: “Nothing is so permanent as change”. In this knowledge, humankind celebrates festivals since times unknown, giving people the opportunity to let go of the old and to embrace the new things which life would certainly hold in store.
Things may feel different. The times may make us feel disconnected or out of sorts. But even in an online ritual, we can find even small bits of comfort and serenity. If your Druidry is like mine, rooted more in the people you are with than in the period of the Wheel of the Year that you are in – you have likely felt much of the same disconnected nature that I have. Try to remember, and this goes for myself as well, that all of this is only for the moment. It is the here and the now. Not the future. It may take time, but we will eventually get back to a time where we can gather together without the fear of inadvertently infecting those we love and cherish with a virus with such deadly consequences. We just have to be a little more patient than we anticipated. We have to remain safe, protecting ourselves, and in so doing – protecting others as well.
This is the time of the year to let go of things in our past. This is a time when the days are short, and the dark of the night is a little longer – until the Solstice. Then the reverse holds true. In a manner of speaking, I am starting to see where my current bout of depression is a time frame leading to a Winter Solstice in my own life. Where darkness will have a shorter reign. Where light, and hope can be seen on the distant horizon. All I need to do is what our ancestors did during this time of the physical year – endure. For me, its difficult because I have no hand to hold. I endure the darkness on my own. But we can envision holding one another’s hands…being the unseen support for one another. Because together, we not only endure, but we will flourish. All we need is patience, and our own self-understanding.
A long while back, I used to hold a morning and evening vigil for the Sun. I would get up before the sunrise, and greet its sudden arrival over the horizon with a cup of coffee in my hand, and wonder in my eyes. In the evenings, I would say my good night, as it slipped over the horizon, allowing the Darkness to have its turn in my world. But I always asked the Sun as it set for a promise that it would rise again in the East. The Sun has never failed in keeping that promise. Perhaps, I need to take the time to re-establish this little vigil. The same promise from the Sun holds true at the time of Winter Solstice. The Sun has promised to make the days longer from this point on. Every year, that promise has been kept. I see nothing to suggest that it will be different going into 2021, or even in my own life. It takes patience, time, and faith. I do my best with the first one. I have no control over the second one. The third one is completely up to me.
Back when I was working through my nearly decade-long trek through the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids’ (OBOD) Bardic grade (ok, it was seven years), I would run into periods that I would call the “calm seas”. Some folks refer to this as “the doldrums” which I thought would be interesting to look up and refer to here.
The Intertropical Convergence Zone, known by sailors as the doldrums or the calms because of its monotonous, windless weather, is the area where the northeast and southeast trade winds converge. It encircles Earth near the thermal equator, though its specific position varies seasonally.
(Found as a description for the Wikipedia page for Intertropical Convergence Zone during a Google search for “doldrums”)
According to some of the information on the Wikipedia page, Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” describes just how the doldrums could play havoc on ships during the so-called Age of Sail. It’s an interesting perspective, when you place it against the studies, lessons, and other aspects of one’s Druidry. About six months ago, I hit that same wall here in my Ovate studies. This time, instead of retreating and trying to restart from a previous point, I have let myself sit at this spot for six months. Several times, I have picked up the Gwers I am stuck on, only to make zero progress. I have reached my doldrums within my studies.
Back during this period (several periods of this) in my Bardic studies, I questioned whether I was on the right Path or not. This time, I know that this is the Path I should be on. However, this time I have a better idea of what the issue is. It’s my approach to my own Druidry. A few posts back, I detailed a point where my approach to Druidry set me in a position of physical danger. I took on a role I thought was correct – without being sure that I was not setting myself into unnecessary danger. But that wasn’t six months ago. Six months ago, I hit a brick wall. A few months later, I realized that it was my approach to Druidry that had me at a halt. It’s taken me a few more months to realize that this is what has me stalled.
See, my life is literally upside down right now. or at least that’s the way it feels. It could be sideways or even right-side up. My problem is that I don’t have the proper footing in my own mind to know what the correct orientation should be. Until I can manage that, I may not be able to find a straight-forward path through my studies. However, it is good that I know what the issue is. That allows me a starting point to gaining my perspective again. Once I can manage that, my forward progress through my studies will be capable again.
Why do I write this? Well, this is just one perspective of what happens when things go wrong. Sometimes, Life is going to get in the way of your studies. Sometimes, your studies are going to get in their own way. When that happens, you are likely to find yourself at a full stop. Take that stop. Grind everything to a halt. Then pick up each issue, one at a time, and find solutions. When you manage to clear the tracks for the studies to continue, take a deep breath and move forward. There is no time limit to your OBOD studies. There is also no need to compare yourself to others on their paths within OBOD. Everyone’s journey looks different. Everyone’s progress will be different. That’s because we are all different. The speed you move is the speed you move. Don’t agonize and beat yourself up over the speed of your progress. And when you run into roadblocks, don’t accept defeat. Solve the roadblocks, take a deep breath, and keep on with your studies at that point.
Yeah, all that sounds a lot simpler than it really is. My current roadblock is dealing with my own depression, coupled with a need to rewire the way I make decisions. Both of those have added minor issues that I also have to work through. So, there’s a lot of things to do before I can get my own Ovate studies train back on the tracks. But I will manage things and get moving again. It’s a goal I have set for myself. First, one step at a time. One issue at a time. One solution at a time.
So, maybe you’ve run into some issue. Let’s say it’s rough. Well, let’s sit down right here and now. You and me. Maybe it’s extremely frustrating and aggravating. Maybe you’re super tense over things. Let it out. Cry. Kick your feet. Pitch a fucking fit. Just let it all out. Once you feel you have released all that tension, let’s take a few moments and re-center your energies. Let’s ground, and center. Whatever technique works for you. Then let’s sit for a few minutes and just listen. Hear the nearby cars driving by? The birds chirping from the limbs of the trees or over in the bushes? Or if you have music playing, listen to the instruments, the voice, feel the rhythm. Anything to bring your mind to the here and the now. When you’re ready, stand up, and let’s start walking forward on your chosen Path. See, it’s a good thing to let go of the tension. Once you let the tension drain from your muscles, you can start focusing on what you need to do to get past the things as they stand. Then, you can focus on the things you had to set to the side.
Right now, my life is difficult. Difficult because I am unsure of any decision that I make. At this moment, I have decided that it is time to sit down on the ground and cry. I have reached out for mental health counseling to help me through this moment. Someone that can listen to me objectively and is not part of anything going on. Soon, I will need to stand up and move forward, with this counselor’s advice, and their unbiased perspective. After that, I will find myself moving forward, unsure of what my world is going to wind up looking like.
For me, these are not the “doldrums” – these are the “dark hours.” I am in the depths of the forest, climbing the tree to see above the canopy of the trees. I know that Bilbo saw the butterflies but could not see an end to the canopy of trees. I have no idea what I will see, I only hope that when I breach the canopy that the skies are daylight and not night. But climb the tree I must.
Druidry has been a part of my daily life for around a decade. There are times that it has been at the forefront. Other times its been on the back burner. And others – all sorts of locations in-between. Over the past two months, my life has been undergoing a massive amount of change. Some of it was planned. Some of it wasn’t. There were plenty of decisions that were made in that time frame as well. Many of those choices were made through a lens provided to me through my understanding of Druidry within my life. Some of those decisions were not the best ones that I could have made…laced within the perceptions I had of what Druidry was.
I’m not some ambassador type. I’m not here to solve conflict in peoples’ lives. Nor am I meant to make everyone happy and pleased with the decisions that I determine for myself. Yet, I have done that. That all drives back into a narrative that Druidry is about being the Peacemaker. But that is also not me. I am built more in the vein of a Protector, not a Diplomat. I may not be a physically strong specimen, but I’ll step between an abuser and their target.
As many of you know, I am currently going through some difficult times within my life. It can definitely be hard to be anything for anyone else when you are tearing yourself apart. My depression has certainly become the dark forest that I have always feared. At times, its difficult for me to figure out which way is ahead, and which one is behind. Many of the markers that I have counted on to mark my path, just have not been there. That includes my Druidry.
I have reached out to professionals for help. With their help, I have started to understand some of the places where I am broken, and which places are just bent and needing to be reshaped. At this point, my Druidry has not been a focal point of my life. I am not reaching out for connectivity to the world around me, as much as I am reaching within to find the connectivity of myself. In doing this internal process, I have started to re-evaluate where and how Druidry connects me to myself. I’ll worry about how Druidry connects me to the world around me later. To put in a different sense, I am learning to re-wire me.
I wrote in a previous blog post how people who know me the best – those who have been and are a part of my daily life – started to notice how much I was pulling inside of myself. How much I started backing away from everyone. How my demeanor was more akin to an abused animal waiting to be hit than it was to who I have been. They all asked me to get help. They all tried to steer me towards seeking assistance in dealing with what I have now come to define as “the dark hours”. The stubborn parts of me said that I was alright. That I didn’t need help. That my beliefs could steer me through all of this. None of that was true. I needed the help, and denying it not only kept me in the dark hours, but also was an indicator that I wasn’t listening.
I did; however, realize what was being said, and reached out for help. I have been learning a few techniques and processes to help me with my decision-making, and with my ability to process information. I am not completely better, but I now have some tools to work with. Moving forward will be a slow process. The scarier part is who will still be there, standing by my side through all of this. I can’t predict the behaviors of others, but I do know that some people will and may already have, left my life over these changes I have made. Everyone has their own choices to make.
So, circling back now, where does my Druidry fit into all of this? Well, many of the studies that OBOD has, deal with working with the Inner You. Once I manage to figure out where, how and why Druidry is a part of who I am, I plan to step back to some of those lessons, and approach things with a new perspective. First; however, I have to build a basis of who I am. Am I still the Protector that I envision myself to be? Certainly. That’s always been a part of me. But how that particular role fits into my everyday Life…that’s up for my internal discussion and debate.
I did get asked about how I am looking at all of this mental health work in relation to who I am. I see it as needing to stop, take a good look at the overall engine, and see what needs to be re-tuned to make it run better. I know that my process will be slow…and may likely continue through the rest of my life. For anyone seeing that as a “bad” thing….it’s not. There will be good days. There will be bad days. There will be many, many days somewhere in-between. What I am learning to do is manage those days…so that I can be a better person. One who continues to get people to laugh, smile, and enjoy themselves. Not the brooding, withdrawn individual I had become. My Druidry fits in there somewhere. I’m just not totally sure where and how…just yet.