I Don’t Always Get My Choice

What’s your support for why you do that as a Druid?
Where is the information that supports your rationale for believing that?
The Bible say that Christianity is right in this particular passage. Where does it say that Druidry is right?
You have no factual information to support the correctness of what you do in your Spirituality.

::sigh:: Gods, I can feel the frustration that comes from having statements thrown in your face like this. Where people try to take a simple conversation about differences in belief and turn it into a courtroom drama. Believe me, I have been there more often than I care to admit. When I first started down my Path of Paganism, I was grilled by the Chaplain assigned to my squadron over what I believed. I felt like one of those arcade shooter duck targets. He would fire question after question at me, not even waiting for an answer. As I would sit there trying to formulate an answer to the previous question, I would have another question smashed right against me. In the end, he shook his head and told me that I was merely having a rebellious fantasy that I could project into an environment where rebellious attitudes were deplorable to “good military discipline.” I was completely crushed when the interrogation was completed. I promised my duty section sergeant that I would not bring up my beliefs in conversations about religion in the duty section. The four evangelical Christians on my shift were not admonished at all. They were free to discuss any matter they chose. In the end, I chose to not participate in any conversation with them that did not handle working matters. In a few short months, I knew the mainframe system’s workings far better than they ever did. A set of orders sending me to the US Army’s Central Command would provide a change of scenery for me – in more ways than one.

The point is not the degradation that I received at the hands of an uncaring Chaplaincy system at a Strategic Air Command base in Texas. Rather, its about this notion that others feel that they need to create discussions into rapid-fire debates, particularly where one’s beliefs are concerned – especially when those beliefs are contradictory to their own.

In my youngers days – I was twenty years old when the above occurred (I had to get a calculator out to figure that – honestly!) – I didn’t think so quickly on my feet. Had it occurred today, I would have gotten up and walked out of the room – the Chaplain’s Major rank be damned – and walked straight to the Base Legal Office to press my rights being violated in such a manner. Of course, I have thirty-five years of experience to bring me quickly to that conclusion (thank you calculator!). Twenty-year-old me didn’t know any better. Thirty-year-old me would have fired off some caustic remark that would have gotten me in a deeper world of trouble.

Back to the quick-fire questioning methodology. If you watch some of the Congressional committee meetings, where the members question an individual about some matter, you will find this methodology utilized by those not wanting to ask questions. Rather, they use this methodology to grandstand for the C-SPAN cameras, so that their constituents can see how tough they are on these matters. They’re not really being tough, nor are they doing their job – which is to assist the committee in ferreting out the facts. It’s just a show. The same holds true for those that do this in a “discussion.”

I’m fifty-five now, getting ready to turn another year in less than a month. I have little desire, energy, or stomach for fiery debate over my beliefs, yours, or anyone else’s. I know what I believe. I do my best to live those beliefs to the best of my ability each day. I screw up occasionally, like anyone else does. Simply put, I’m not perfect. I don’t really care about how anyone else believes either – so long as their words, rhetoric, and actions do not cause harm to others. Believe me, I know how hard a line that is to walk.

Why do we feel the need to argue, and (taking an old BBS term) flame one another over the differences in our beliefs? I couldn’t really tell you. I know back in the old BBS days I was known for rolling up my sleeves and jumping start into the religious debates. I would accuse Christians of being hypocrites based on what people did back in the medieval ages, all in the name of their beliefs. Certainly, many of those atrocities happened back during that time – but Christianity back then was a far different system of belief than it is today. Or so I would hope. I wasn’t alive back then (that I am aware of – but reincarnative belief is another bridge to cross at another time – but for short commentary, yes I do believe). Plus, those who have done vile actions in the name of their beliefs in our modern age…I just can’t say for certain what they do or do not believe.

So, on to a practical aspect within all of this. Don’t fall for the bait. When the rapid-fire questions start, don’t talk – just listen. Don’t try to answer. Let them talk. Give them the lectern. When they finally stop to wait for an answer, take the opportunity to get up and leave. If all of that makes no sense to you, ask yourself these simple questions: is anything that you are going to say likely to change their mind? Do you think that anything that you utilize as a retort will cause them to stop and contemplate the differences of what you say versus what they claim? Honestly, if the answer is no, consider just leaving things be, and going about your way. That choice is up to you. For me, I consider it a waste of my time, energy, and a depletion of what positivity I have. There’s plenty more for me to do where I can make a difference. But again, that choice is yours. Lay a hand on me when I try to leave? I might be a fifty-plus, slightly fat old man, but the military taught me well. I might not win that particular skirmish, but I’ll give as good as I get. My preferred choice, still, is to just walk away and let the discussion be done. I don’t always get my choice.

–T /|\

It’s the Same Story the Crow Told Me…

It’s the same story the Crow told me, it’s the only one He knows.

Grateful Dead, “Uncle John’s Band” from the album “Workingman’s Dead”

This is one of my favorite lyrics from the Grateful Dead. Written by the amazing Robert Hunter, the song is included in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s “500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.” Aside from being an awesome song, it also is a reminder that my God is always nearby. My relationship with Crow has grown over the past two years. Throughout some of the most troubling moments that we have had, as well as difficult times within my own life, Crow has always been there to remind me that each day continues to be a gift – even when it doesn’t look that way.

Over the past decade or so, everything around me has seemingly fallen into a category of “winning versus losing.” Everything is cased in the perspective of being a competition or as it has turned over the last two years, into a battlefield. “Either we get our way, or there’s going to be war.” I’ve watched that permeate through the constant barrage over the Confederate and Civil War issue that covered the news for so long. I’ve listened, watched, read, and even participated in the long “discussions” over the presidency of Donald Trump. I watched in pain as supporters of President Trump challenged the election process of various states during the last election cycle, including a horrendous storming of the Nation’s Capital to stop the proper installation of a duly elected President Biden. Through all of that, Crow has been at my shoulder reminding me that those polarizing moments are fleeting. “The cycles of human-kind,” are what I am constantly told.

Those cycles happen constantly. All of it comes from a need and pull for power by others. Here in the United States, we collectively get wrapped up in what our political parties want. It drives our elections, our legislation, and our wider focus. Those parties claim to be wanting the best for all the citizens of this country, but all of it is really a ploy for power. Certainly, one could point to the turmoil in politics, the constant hatred and anger towards one another within politics, the surge in extreme weather conditions (I saw a story on the Weather Channel a few days ago that this summer’s heat edged out the hottest summer during the Dust Bowl era), and COVID that there is a “Storm” already here. Certain folks that are far more sensitive to magickal aspects than I ever dreamed of being, will confirm that. Crow continues to remind me that all of this is just a cycle of humankind.

One of the Pantheacons that I attended, there was a ritual that was aimed towards the Morrigan. I attended out of curiosity. I could feel the calling of the Morrigan towards those for this coming “Storm”. I also had Crow on my shoulder reminding me that this was just a cycle. “That’s not for you,” was my reminder, “Unless you choose that Path.” I didn’t. That moment was quite a few years ago. Since then, Crow, Coyote, and now Abnoba, have continued pushing me elsewhere. Towards teaching and mentorship. In the background of all of that has been another reminder: its not about winning or losing. It’s about living.

I have wrung my hands over this coming “Storm” for quite a long time. During one meditation, Crow asked me about how to deal with a storm here in this physical realm. I replied that it depended on the severity of the storm, but typically, one either stayed inside or got a raincoat and an umbrella. In the case of a stronger storm, one would either barricade themselves inside their home or evacuate. ::Exactly.:: was the response.

I know a lot of this won’t sit well with others. In some ways, I have felt that everyone seems to be spoiling for a fight. That’s not an indictment of anyone or their motives. Just an observation from my perspective. During much of President Trump’s campaign, he would talk about “winning” and “losing” – turning a political campaign for a government office into a battle rather than a philosophical conversation on how a government should be run. When he did turn to the philosophical perspective of govern, he utilized it as a hammer to drive a spike of division even deeper between two perspectives of governorship. His campaign forced voting citizens to see things in an either/or perspective – essentially into a war or battle. That continued into his re-election campaign. Looking back, many of our issues that have flashed through the news headlines have followed this same pattern, even long before President trump first placed himself into campaign mode for his only (so far) term. So, we’ve been choosing this either/or perspective for quite some time.

Crow continues to remind me that these are the cycles of humankind. Winning and losing is a construct that we have put together. Life is about adapting to the conditions and moving forward. How we live is more important. Finding kindness and assistance for those that need it is far better than cruising the highways in your vehicles looking for political opponents to harass and run their vehicles off the road. Happened right here in Texas during this last Presidential election cycle. Helping others with their mental health issues is of the utmost need. Accepting people for who they are regardless of their political philosophies, their gender, who they love, or even how many…finding the common footing that we are all human beings and designed to be unique from one another. We can disagree without being violent or hateful. In my mind and perspective, we can all live here together. All we need to do is have a little respect for others…just acknowledge that we all are trying to live our best life, if we are just afforded the opportunity to do so. So long as we break this current cycle of humankind, and accept a new cycle where we can disagree, but respect.

I do get it though. Its easier to be disrespectful to others. It’s easier to pick a group of people and treat them as opponents. Winning and losing is an easy paradigm to connect with. We’re taught the perspective of competition in our earliest moments of childhood. We learn competitive games such as football, baseball, and such. We play to “win” – not the joy of the game. We learn in school, but we are provided grades, which are accumulated to determine who has the highest-grade point average. That person is awarded a title and given a position of prominence when we finish our climb towards an award acknowledging our educational achievement. Winning and losing is a part of our lives. We use that competitive drive to achieve and excel. It only seems natural for us to place that competition into areas of our lives that go beyond those moments. Winning and losing drives us into those areas.

I am not trying to say that competitiveness is ruining our lives and making us hate each other. The problems that get us to that point are much deeper than that. I’m only pointing out what gets us to the point of placing every aspect of our lives into a competitive nature, where “Us versus Them” becomes “Us only need to survive.” Where “we are better than them,” starts us down a Path of violent reaction.

This is all just a cycle of humankind. Cycles can be broken. Storms exist. But they exist until the imbalance that created them is returned to normal. In the meantime, we survive. We shelter from the “Storm.” We help others survive by helping them find shelter as well. For those who are afraid, we provide calm, strength, positivity…we help them. Because it is the right thing to do.

I know this entire thing is rambly. If that’s really a word. Hopefully, you can see my point. Crow, Coyote, and Abnoba keep pointing me towards what I need to do. However, I am not trying to teach anyone anything here. I am merely pointing out my own perspective on these turbulent times we live in. I’m also trying to express my hope in human beings to break this cycle we are in by finding compassion for others within themselves. I can’t make choices for anyone. Nor would I want to. That removes your capability and capacity to choose for yourself. That is freedom. To make your own decisions, based on your own observations. To force everyone to believe as I do makes for a boring world, full of clones of me. No thanks. I like unique individuals that I can interact with. People I can agree and respectfully disagree with. Because that means we are doing more than just thinking. We are thinking and feeling.

It’s not whether we win or lose. It’s how we live each moment we are given. Some of that probably sounds familiar…after all, it’s the same story the Crow told me. It’s the only one He knows.

–Tommy /|\

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

Thinking About: Technology, Personal Spirituality, and Where They Cross/Connect

How do you reconcile your approach to a nature-based belief system with the advances of the digital age?

This was an interesting question that was asked via Email. The individual that sent the Email specifically asked not to be identified. Its taken me over a week to formulate my response because I had to sort through a variety of layers to get there.

To be able to understand where I am coming from, I need to explain how things were when I started down my path of Paganism so you can contrast that against what you know about personal communication at this point in your life. That’s right, you will have to create the contrast and comparison against what you know. For me to do that would be trying to force my perspective against what you know for yourself. Furthermore, my understanding of the digital age goes back even further than my Pagan Path does. To those who encountered the digital age just a few decades back, their understanding will begin in a far more sophisticated perspective, which will make their understanding quite a bit different. Yes, technology has changed that quickly over the years.

My initial start with Technology beings in the rise of the personal computer, as well as in the beginning of the digital age from the 1950s. I started on the path of the personal computer in 1981, at the height of hobbyist computers. Think the earliest versions of the Apple }{, as well as the predecessor of the Commodore 64 computer – the venerable Commodore Pet-Plus 4. These computers had RAM modules around 4 kilobytes. That’s less than today’s digital watches. Professionally, I started on a UniVac 1100 series 08 mainframe system. This was my second duty station in the United States Air Force. To compare with the personal computer, the mainframe took up approximately half of a building, and required several people working in various functions to operate it. For me, these two very different systems were my start down a professional and personal path within computer technology to where I am today.

When I first started down my Pagan path, I was working on that mainframe environment at Carswell Air Force Base in Fort Worth, Texas. At that time, I had purchased my own Commodore 64 with the 5 ¼ floppy disk drive (the 1541 model), along with a modem that would allow me to connect to local Bulletin Board Systems via a telephone call. That modem, which was the connective aspect that would allow me to connect with other Pagans in the Arlington and Fort Worth parts of the Dallas/Fort Worth metro areas. I would find friends that I still have today through the discussion boards on each BBS (Bulletin Board System). I would also find out about various public rituals that I got to attend, as well as various face-to-face gatherings in various local pubs. I do miss those days. However, I do acknowledge that all of that has led me to today’s internet, where I am able to discuss lots of things with Pagans around the world.

That’s really the biggest change from nearly forty years ago. The breadth and depth of people that I can communicate with. There was no Facebook, or anything close to it, back then. Much of what we know about the internet today wasn’t even dreamed of at that time. However, the internet has allowed us to communicate between one another in a much wider degree. A lot of communication has taken place within the Pagan community over the internet. We write blogs. We “chat” with one another via text and/or video. We have discussion forums on various platforms. We exchange ideas. We argue with one another. We insult and denigrate one another (Back in the BBS days, we called inane arguments and insult hurling: “flame wars”). We discuss whatever topics we desire. We make plans for get togethers, public rituals, private group meetings, and a lot of other things, all of which help connect new Pagans with groups that interest them. Today’s digital world is as much a part of our daily lives as eating, drinking, exercising, and sleeping. We make friendships and strong connections with other Pagans that are far away from us, even in other countries. Some of these people become closer to us than our physical families. I have a few of these long-distance relationships with people I might never see face-to-face. That fact, the distances – neither have mattered when it comes to the strong, close connected relationship I have with them. I’m quite certain that others have similar relationships.

So, all of that doesn’t reconcile well with the strong connection we Pagans have with Nature. The internet is a man-made concept. It has become rather pervasive within our daily lives. Some of us use it to connect with our jobs, particularly in this age of COVID-19. How does all this fit into the beliefs that we practice in nature-oriented beliefs? Well, for me, it’s rather simple – it’s a tool. A means for communication. An access point to research that I wouldn’t have otherwise. But its not a part of my beliefs. It is a part of my personal history.

In the late 1990s, I was working on a mainframe environment for a financial company in Dallas. On a shift, I was talking with one of the other employees working on the operations floor. We started discussing religious beliefs. Being rather open about what I believe, I talked about Pagansim. At that time, we were all temporary employees. This individual and I were up for the same full-time job. When he went in for his interview, he couched it that I was a Satanist and should not be employed at the company. In my interview, my soon-to-be supervisor asked me point-blank about it. I answered that I wasn’t a Satanist, that I was a Pagan. I gave what amounted to a quick minute-and-half explanation of the difference. After I was hired, my new supervisor mentioned what was stated in the interview. The Director of the department had bluntly stated back to this temporary employee that she “could care less if I worshipped the computer system, so long as I did the job that was asked of me.” First time I had ever been accused of worshipping the mainframe system. At another job, I maintained the computer labs for a for-profit college. I worked the nights. The students would bring food into the labs, which was a no-no. I told them it would be all right, so long as they didn’t make a mess and kept drinks on the floor with lids on. One night, I went through a computer lab to get ready for closing. On the floor in the back corner, I found a paper tray filled with the bones from hot wings that a student had brought in for their dinner. The bones were all neatly arranged on the paper tray. I surmised, in my own sarcastic humorous way, that the student was working on a difficult project and had brought in the hot wings as a sacrifice to the computer Gods for a better chance at a successful project that would earn him/her a better grade. These two instances are as close as any moment has gotten to a religious inference with a computer being specifical involved. Thanks for letting me sidetrack you for a moment. 😊

Much like an athame, ritual clothing, a crystal, a table designated specifically for ritual, a staff, a written set of instructions for ritual, and even a meditational state of mind to put a participant into a correct frame of mind – the digital world that we find ourselves in is a tool. Certainly, it is used for more than just furthering our personal practice. It serves other functions and provides for other mundane needs. For me, beyond the use of a communications and research tool, the computer and internet serve no huge part in my beliefs. As a tool, these aspects of the digital age do help to further part of my beliefs through the communication aspects and research capabilities. I have used these to connect with others for assistance. Last year, I connected with a long-time friend for assistance in remembering a function of rebuilding my own personal shielding – simply because I had forgotten the technique. That would never have been possible without the amazing connective technology that we have today.

Am I some kind of cyber-mage? Does my use of technology make my Druidry stronger? As I am chucking out loud right now as I write this – you should be able to realize that my answer to both questions is no. I do; however, consider the dreams that became challenges that moved others to create and refine these technologies that we use today to be real magic. I marvel at what they have created. So, I end this with some of the lyrics from Rush’s song “Mission” which pays tribute to the Awen/inspiration that they had, in taking their own ideas and dreams and bringing that to a reality that could be shared by everyone. If you are looking for something that would bind these technologies to my beliefs – it would be this. Where the Gods helped spur the idea of innovation and creation. Not what resulted from it, but the drive to make what seemed impossible become a reality.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rush, “Mission” from the album “Hold Your Fire”
My old classroom

Thinking About: In the Beginning

Over the weekend, I was having a linear conversation on Discord with a new-ish Pagan over my personal start down my Pagan Path. All of it started over a personal lament over how difficult it seems to be to navigate the deep waters of what kind of Pagan one can be. I completely grok the perspective, as well as sympathize with the real struggle of finding one’s footing. Of course, there is a bit of difference between our stories. I started down my Pagan Path in 1986. A very pronounced difference compared to here in the late 2010s and early 2020s. Information is more widely available here in the digital age. People are far more open about their beliefs. There are also more Pagans today than there were back in the mid-1980s.

As I write this post, my music program (the rather vile Apple iTunes) has Dokken currently playing – a particular favorite of mine from the mid-1980s. The music does put me in the frame of mind to remember back to that time.

I graduated all-boys Catholic high school in 1984, a year later than I should have. Thanks to my family moving all over Europe, and then returning to Alabama for my father’s last few years in the Air Force, I was missing a few credits from the lower levels of my four years of high school – specifically Louisiana Civics, and a requisite two classes of language. While I walked through high school graduation with my class, my diploma was a blank piece of paper until I could attain the two classes I was missing: Louisiana Civics, and a Government class, both of which I achieved in Summer school sessions with students from the public school system. Here, I was exposed to the idea of alternative beliefs.

Being a “loner”, as well as being classified as “weird” by most of my classmates, I fell into the same daily routine that I had in high school: essentially being alone. However, my appearance: long hair, Hair band t-shirts, torn jeans, and a battered black-and-white checkered Vans, pointed me towards the goth folk that hung out in one corner of the second-floor atrium. Their interest in me increased when they realized that I was one of the Catholic school kids. Here, I was introduced to the aspects of Satanism, tantric approaches, Wicca, and other non-mainstream concepts. Once Summer school ended, my life went back to “normal”, until I joined the military. Here, I continued to research these non-mainstream perspectives until I ran across two books: The Spiral Dance by Starhawk, and the much more influential (for me) Drawing Down the Moon by Margot Adler. These two books, along with the myriad of local electronic Bulletin Board Systems (BBSs) that I would call into, cracked open my worldview a little further. Not only did I find a myriad of other resources to learn from, I found people to meet and talk with in person.

Back in the mid-1980s, which also harkened the Satanic Panic, there were very few resources available – mostly books, and magazines and newsletters such as the Green Egg. Any other information tended to be passed around by word of mouth. In today’s environment, there is a lot more material available, thanks to the advent of the internet. Being a solo Pagan is much easier today because of the depth and breadth of available information. Back in the mid-1980s, the dearth of such information usually meant that a new Pagan had to reach out to a local group, learning things in that Tradition’s perspective only. In my opinion, it was much more difficult to find your own footing than it is today. I grok that many folks would disagree with me and point out that new Pagans are more likely to be more confused and scattered in their Pagan practice because of the lack of a solid anchor to work from. Certainly, there is an argument to be had in both ways. However, which is “right” and “correct” really depends on how the practitioner feels about their own personal footing within Paganism as they are experiencing. Some will say that the solo methodology of today makes Pagans with a much shallower practice. I can grok that perspective, except its not for my to judge what is and is not “deep” practice for someone else compared to my own practice. Besides, personal Spirituality is not a competition for me. I hope we all will win, regardless of our own individual Paths.

One thing that I didn’t enjoy about those early days on my Path was that your ability to advance in knowledge all depended on how your “teachers” felt that you were progressing. Much of that didn’t rely on the knowledge that you attained and worked with. A lot of that went into how well you stroked the egos of your “teachers” and how well your personality mixed and meshed with theirs. However, being a solo Pagan today means that you get to pick and choose from topics and perspectives. You can avoid the topics you don’t want to be in, meaning that some of your training and learning can be unbalanced. Take, for instance, my reluctance to deal with spell work. Much of that comes from perceiving spell work as something similar to a nuclear weapon: , it is nice to have in the fold, but its usage as more of a deterrent. I continue to choose to set it to the side. Certainly, if I had stronger training in its usage, my perspective would be very, very different. Thus, I believe that there are strengths and weaknesses to both the trained and solo approaches to things.

Back in the beginning of our conversation on Discord, I had been asked which perspective I preferred. Well, if you go back through the blog, you will see that much of my approach to my Paganism is very unorthodox. I even acknowledge that in my approach. Is it the proper approach? For me, yes. But many others require a much more organized and orthodox approach. There is nothing wrong with that either. Really, this is a matter orthopraxy versus orthodoxy, or so I have been told. For me, its just picking a style that works best for you. I love Dokken. Not everyone does. It’s a matter of personal taste and style. If that’s the same as orthopraxy versus orthodoxy, cool. If its not…that’s cool too. I’m not a theologian of any sort. I’m just me. Some need the feel of theology and all the terms associated with it. Cool. That’s not me; however.

I still hold to the perspective that today’s new Pagans have so much more information at their fingertips than the Pagans of my initial period of “newbie-ness” had. That depth of information provides them a open avenue towards being a solo Pagan. Most solo Pagans during my “new” period in the mid-1980s did so because they had far fewer Pagans near them. The wider base of knowledge, coupled with the way the internet has narrowed the communication gap with one other, provides greater capacity and capability for these solo Pagans (which I am one of, by choice). But really, none of that is wrong. How you come to your Pagan Path is your choice, and your choice alone. Your initial steps on your Path will be ringed with confusion. I remember how confusing my first three years on my Pagan Path was. So, I do grok that feeling – far better than many folks will realize. The difference for me were teachers and friends that I had to talk about things along with the way. Without them, my Path might not have been possible. I am eternally grateful that they were there – and are still there – when I have need. I only hope that my own counsel, perspective, and friendship has been as helpful to them.

–T /|\

Howling Into the Wind: Practicing Alone

Last week, I suffered a diabetic seizure and was taken to the emergency room. A bit of a scary moment, as well as having an entire sleepless night in the emergency room in a single bay. Later that night, a woman who had been sleeping in her car at one of the local gas stations was brought in to have her wounds from struggling with the police. Since they couldn’t get a statement of whether she was vaccinated or not, she was placed in the last bay. The two police officers that had struggled with her were also in there. One of them asked the nurse where they could go within the Emergency Room area. She replied that they could go anywhere except Bay Five, which was mine. Later, I asked why my bay had been excluded. “You have an immune system issue with your diabetes. They had been with the patient in Bay Eight for an extended period of time. Since we couldn’t determine her COVID status, we moved her to the furthest location from you, and treated the officers as if they also needed to be kept away from you.” COVID has changed the protocols within my local emergency room. As I sat on my bed in the room, I realized that a lot more has changed concerning those protocols – even my approach to my Paganism.

When COVID was raging last year, I spent much of the Summer in the house. I very rarely came out of the house for anything. I had a handful of homemade masks that I could wear, but nothing I could call dependable. Over a period of time, I purchased a handful of manufactured masks that I could put filters inside of for better protection. However, I continued to stay indoors out of simple precaution. I did my rituals inside, so I could limit my exposure to other people. Rituals that I would normally seek out a group to work with, I stayed in a solo mode. Other aspects where I would usually seek out the company of others, I found other methods to gather and make contact with them. Over that time, my approach to my Paganism has become much more inward, much more solo in nature. Where I was making parts of my Paganism solitaire, and other parts more group-oriented, these last two years have been completely solitaire in my daily approach. Coupled with some issues within my own personal life, I truly found out what it is like to be a solo Pagan.

I know others have had to make changes in their approach to their Spirituality during these times for much the same reason. I know these times of COVID can seem quite scary, even for those who have gotten the vaccines. With new strains showing up, where the vaccines are scant protection against break-through infections, it certainly feels like we are a long way from our lives getting back to some aspect of “normalcy.” I still have fears concerning face-to-face gatherings, festivals, and conferences. I am starting to worry for the survival of such gatherings. Where I live, I am about ten miles from the Texas Middlefaire location. These last two years, Middlefaire has not held an event at their location. A year ago, the Middlefaire owner/operator took the signs off the signpost at the highway just out of the faire grounds. That signage location continues to be bare to this day. There is some question about the capability for Middlefaire to even return if things got back to some aspect of “normal.” That begs the question of what will be “normal” for public gatherings, and rituals. To be honest, I don’t know what the future will bring for those aspects of our collective Pagan lives. I’m not a prognosticator. I don’t even play one on tv.

Currently, I see my own personal Pagan practice continuing on the lonely Path that it is. My lousy immune system will require me to be much more careful than others. Already, I’m seeking out video gatherings to keep connected to others. I just do not feel like having a Pagan practice where I don’t connect with others in some way…just for some meaningful discussions, as well as just plain ol’ chit-chat. In many ways, I’m tired of being alone on my Spiritual Path. That’s actually quite ironic for me. I’ve always been a solo Pagan, coming out to group practice only a handful of times in a year. It should stand to reason that being alone and not doing any group-oriented anything should be ok with me. But like any human being, I’m still a social animal. Being completely cut off from public gatherings has never sat well with me.

Has COVID changed how we connect with one another? Certainly, it has. Has it changed the way we approach the Gods within our own Spiritual Paths? For some it has. For others, its not been a significant point. For me, its been a significant change to my own approach. Still, another example, that we traverse our Spiritual Paths differently.

–Tommy /|\

Thinking About: Pagans v. Christians, Why Can’t We Be Friends?

A few weeks ago, I took a walk in the local park. While walking, I came across a group of other people that were walking on the park’s trail as well and was invited to walk with them. Well, with new people, we all started talking and reaching out on various topics – just trying to get a feel for who we all were. Eventually, our conversations turned towards religious beliefs. I brought up that I was a Druid and a Pagan, and one of the ladies kept giving me this weird, panicked look. As I gently explained what a Druid and a Pagan were, as well as how I viewed both perspectives, I finally stopped and asked her if I was upsetting her.

“You are.”

“I’m sorry. That wasn’t my intention.”

“I know, but now we can’t be friends.”

Her fellow walkers started telling her that she was acting stupidly. I stepped in a little closer to continue the conversation on a lower tone.

“I don’t understand. Why can’t we be friends?”

“Because you’re a Satanist, and I’m a Christian.”

“Let’s have a seat for a few minutes,” I gestured to the nearby park bench. The three of them sat down on the bench. I sat down on the sidewalk. “I’m not a Satanist. I’m a Pagan. Pagans are not Christians. Satanists are anti-Christians and part of the Christian beliefs.” I saw her immediately take several steps backwards mentally. “That’s a more complicated discussion though. Let’s stick to why we can’t be friends.”

Over the course of the discussion, her point had been that Christians and Pagans are supposed to hate one another. I asked where that written rule was because no one supplied that to me when I was given all the rules of being a Pagan. I quickly assured her I was being sarcastic with this point. Our discussion continued with a lot of point, counterpoint but at the end of it, we hugged. We have done a few more park walks since then, and our conversations have continued. All of it has provided a lot of nice examination of both of our points of view.

All of that has led me to think a bit along the lines of why Christians, Pagans, and other religious viewpoints must find ways to dislike one another. Much of this takes me back to when I first started down the Path on my Pagan journey. I had the horrible habit of preaching to my Christian co-workers about the damages that their people did to mine (Pagans). Gods, I was insufferable. Enough so that it became necessary to move me to an entirely new shift, which was populated with charismatic Evangelical preachers, who preceded to make my life a living Hell. I learned from that to keep my mouth shut about my beliefs, but I still harbored against Christians for what had been done to Pagans so long ago.

Eventually, I was transferred overseas, where I kept my beliefs a little quieter among my co-workers until one Halloween weekend, the Stars and Stripes newspaper – read all over Europe – published a center-spread article called “Practicing Pagans”. I was featured in two photos. Even with my last name misspelled, it was easy to realize it was me. My first day back to shift after that weekend, and I was in front of my duty section supervisor, being questioned about what being in that article meant. Some of my fellow duty section co-workers were positive – others not so much.

All of that was a good twenty years ago or more. Over that time, I have come to realize that what was done to Pagans so long ago during the inquisition cannot be laid at the feet of Christians today. However, what has happened to Pagans and their families in more modern times, such as the Satanic Panic of the 1980s (which arguably persists to this day), can be laid at their feet. However, the Satanic Panic is not real. Most of it is pure fantasy from the minds of people who fear that which they don’t understand. If you look back to the time just after 9/11/2001, you will find much the same attitude by these same Christians towards individuals of the Muslim faith, as well as those who are of middle eastern lineage but not of the Muslim faith. Many of these Christians that act in such atrocious ways are consumed with the End-Times scenarios – looking for a way that this world can end, so that they can move on to the life afterwards that they believe is promised them. Looking for Satanic invasions, and ways that the world can end are meant to be “signs” that will hasten judgment on others and provide them with the magical after-life they imagine will be there for them. In the meantime, this world continues to spin, and those co-called “signs” continue to prove to be fantasies of unimagined proportions.

So why all the hate and anger aimed at those who are not Christians, and those who do not fall into their same-sex manifestations of what is right? Well, I tend to agree with those that say that it is far easier to hate than it is to love. Plus, that hate fuels their narrative. Why does it go the other way too? Why do some Pagans hate Christians of any stripe? Well, most likely its because a Christian did something to them or to a family member. That’s my best guess. Honestly, beyond that guess, I don’t know. I’ve refused to be a part of all of that.

My perspective changed when I realized that by feeding the cycle of anger and hate between a Christian and Pagan perspective did nothing that was worth my time and energy. It took a little while to get my walking friend to understand where I was coming from, but she soon understood what I was getting at. I also took the time to understand her perspective too. Without judgment. Without emotion. As a human being she deserved that much respect within the conversation. In the end, she asked if I was going to change her perspective on things. I told her that changing her opinion/perspective would have to start with her, not mine. Just as it took my constant observation, talking with others, and understanding how things came about for me to change my own.

All the anger marshalled up between Christians and Pagans is a complicated ball of energy and emotions. Does it ever dissipate? I don’t know. That’s a question beyond my understanding and comprehension. I do; however, hope so. Probably not in this lifetime or even the next, but I do hope so.

–Tommy /|\

Howling Into the Wind: It Took Me a Long Time to Clean My Boots…

I don’t normally write about topics from other blogs; however, a recent post by John Beckett provided a strange point of interest for me. John’s point came from a perspective of how to present Pagan beliefs to a generation of what John describes as “Spiritual Explorers.” Quoting from John:

Our many varieties of Paganism and polytheism are not a social club, a political party, or a marketing agency. We don’t proselytize. At the same time, we want to see our values grown in the mainstream culture. More importantly, we want to be welcoming to those who are looking for what we have – even if they don’t know it yet. The Gods call who They call, but many times those calls are faint and difficult to follow.

How do we welcome those who expect to ‘make their own guidelines?’ How do we balance the obligation to preserve our sacred traditions with the obligation to be hospitable to those who simply won’t tolerate being told what to believe or what to do?

John Beckett, “Presenting Paganism to a Generation of Spiritual Explorers?“, August 19 2021

Well, the concept/perspective can provide a bit of an issue for some. Like John, I am a member of the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids. Within OBOD, there ritual formats that are expected to be learned. There are some philosophical aspects that you will need to not only, but completely understand. Unlike John, I am not a member of ADF, and will likely never be one. Their ritual format is not something that I can work with, and ADF has a super strong adherence to that framework. I have been in quite a few ADF rituals. I understand their ritual format, plus I also realize that while the ritual format is not something I wish to work – there is a point respectfulness towards their way of doing things. So, when I read about how we provide hospitable perspective towards others, I find it to be easy to do. Were I to design and run a public ritual, I would stick the public ritual aspect that OBOD adheres to. If I were invited to a public or private ritual, I would adhere to whatever ritual format that was presented. After all, I am a guest.

As for the perspective of working with a “Spiritual Explorer,” I think my moving through various Wiccan groups – all of which had a different ritual format than I did, my time within OBOD, and the three years of presenting myself as a generic neo-Pagan (as well as trying to determine the best direction for ritual perspective) could quite easily place me in the “Spiritual Explorer” camp. While I have been working with the OBOD framework, particularly during OBOD camps, I still utilize the OBOD framework as a way of framing the way my practice works for me. I know. I hear it all the time, even inside of OBOD: I need to stay faithful to the OBOD framework. I need to stop changing things up, like it’s a balloon-animal. Its bad for me to do that, even if the only time that I do things is when I do ritual on my own. However, I learned that its easier to ignore such statements and to continue doing my own ritual techniques in the fashion that work for me when I am alone.

As for passing the values on towards others or making my values into the mainstream…no thanks. I am not going to pass my values on to others. I would rather that others take the values that they deem to be correct for their Path and find ways to make that work for themselves. Surely, we will have values that cross-over from our perspectives. We can work on those values together. Where our values differ, there’s no need to declare mine or yours to be what every Pagan should be doing. To my ears, that sounds like dogma…and I have no need to impose my own dogmatic perspective on to any other person. Just saying.

So, to answer the question of how be welcoming, respectful, and honorable to those who see Paganism in a different way? Well, I just do the same thing I try to do for Christians that I encounter on my daily walk within Life. I realize that we may not see things the same way, but I try to respectful as much as I can without compromising my beliefs and understanding. Even when they respond to me with hatred and anger. Certainly, I won’t invite them back to sacred space or a ritual after the intention is known. But the only way that I physically remove them from the equation is if their responses and actions are detrimental to the sacred space, the ritual or those attending at that moment. Ideally, everyone would be respectful enough to be able to get through the rite or ritual. However, as much of an idealist that I am – I know that doesn’t happen all the time.

Personally, I don’t want people to be limited to whichever part of the forest that they are going to explore. However, as I have said several times before – before you start leaving the Path to explore, its best to learn the ins and outs of the basics. Some of those basics on ritual, magickal frame-working, and other things will provide a stronger basis, should you look for twisting the balloon into a balloon-doggy. Do I disagree with John? To a certain degree. I don’t find it productive to argue over the differences. Instead, its useful to provide a different perspective. I’m not sure what theological perspective, point of view or concept all that plays into. I’m not a theologian, and don’t really care about stuff like that. Instead, I am just trying to make it through each day and be available for anyone that needs a shoulder to lean on or an ear to bend. I’m not here to prove John wrong in any manner. John is a friend of mine – or at least I consider John to be a friend.

These “Spiritual Explorers,” I can understand their perspective very well. I was there not that long ago. I’m just glad that my teachers were patient enough to show me ways to place myself in their shoes. I’m also glad that my teachers had enough patience to let me ask my questions, no matter how silly they might thought I may have been. I might not have any students…and I may never have any students ever in this lifetime. All of that is “ok.” But I can sit and talk with these Seekers and provide my own perspective and explain that my perspective is one of many. I don’t create “the law.” However, I do know where I had stepped, so I don’t step in the dog shit and the cows shit that are in the field. Believe me it took a long time to clean my boots off. 😊

–Tommy /|\

Photo by Lum3n on Pexels.com

My Grounding and Centering Techniques: Tools for Bad Moments and Times

Feel like the entire world is about to implode? Are you aggravated over everything? Even the slightest thing? Or as I described it in “One Pagan’s Perspective. One Druid’s Approach”, you feel like a hand grenade just waiting for your pin to be pulled? Believe it or not, I know the feeling all too well. Go back a pair of decades in my life, and you will find someone with an explosive temper. And it didn’t take long for me to get that temper wound up to a high tempo. Thankfully, I had good friends that not only saw all of that…they didn’t abandon me over it. They stuck tight to me and offered help. One friend, opened up to me enough to teach me two techniques to deal with those moments – grounding and centering. In today’s blog post, I m going to my best to describe the two techniques. I can’t say that these two practices of mine will completely resolve things for you, but hopefully, it can provide a basis from which you can move forward and find your own techniques to help you take a step back from the brink of personal nuclear warfare.

Grounding

The Behavioral Health Partners blog from the University of Rochester Medical Center from April 2018 lists a 5 step process for reducing anxiety:

  • Acknowledge five things you see around you.
  • Acknowledge four things you can touch around you.
  • Acknowledge three things you can hear.
  • Acknowledge two things you can smell.
  • Acknowledge one thing you can taste.

I can understand the process quite easily. You utilize your senses to focus on your immediate surroundings. By doing so, you start to push back whatever has you on the edge to the back burner, and provides you a chance to look to smaller aspects of your environment that you might be taking for granted because of the issue. However, I use a different technique to ground myself.

I create sacred space around me. Once I have managed that, I work towards clearing my thoughts, and feeling that I am a tiny oak seed in the ground. Slowly, I grow, feeling new branches move from the start of my trunk. I feel leaves grow, brown, fall from my branches to the ground around me, and new buds begin to sprout with the Spring. I can feel myself growing taller, while my roots reach even deeper into the ground. Those roots keep me upright. Those roots are the essence of what I am becoming. After a few minutes, I check to see how I feel. Is my issue still prevalent in my thoughts? If so, I continue to grow my oak tree in my thoughts, with the roots reaching ever deeper. I can feel all my troubling thoughts being emptied into the ground around my roots – leaving my system, until I no longer feel those troubles. I spend a few more minutes in Sacred Space, still focusing on my tree and its overall health. Then I take three deep, cleansing breaths and close my Sacred Space.

I know that it sounds rather childish to some, but for me – this process can be done nearly anywhere. On the floor of my living room. Laying in my bed. Walking down the sidewalk in my neighborhood. And while I think I could do this while driving, I’ve not done so. I am not sure if I would be in in state with enough awareness to operate a motor vehicle properly.

Centering

The second technique is centering, which I consider to be a much more difficult thing to do. The wesbite Mindtools states that centering is:

Centering is an ancient visualization technique that is popular in Aikido – the Japanese defensive martial art of “spiritual harmony.” It teaches you to focus on the here and now, taking power away from outside concerns and negative thoughts, and helping you remain stable and grounded.

Centering: Maintaining Focus in Stressful Situations.”, Mindtools

I don’t practice Aikido, but I learned a lot of this technique from when I was in the Air Force, particularly in the Warfare Training Schools that I was sent to. For me, the technique is rather simple. When everything starts to feel like it is spinning out of control, I find a safe place to stop and take a few moments to inventory everything going on. I’ve adapted it to my daily Pagan practice, by starting with creating sacred space. I will go into my process of creating sacred space in Thursday’s blog.

Once I have sacred space created, I take a few moments to inventory everything that I am experiencing. From that inventory process, I determine what needs to be dealt with, and filter out everything that is superfluous to the moment. In essence, I am working towards trying to work with what is in the “here and now” and set the other things to the side – to be dealt with later if need be. Once I feel I have a strong enough of a mental grip on what I need to, I take three cleansing breaths (three…because I’m a Druid), and then bring down sacred space.

Making It All Work

Now, I know some folks are wondering how I make this all work to defuse my temper in certain situations. Well, sometimes, the situation warrants my temper. But that is far rarer then it was before. Grounding is meant to calm me down and temper my anger a bit. Centering allows me to determine if pursuing things really makes that much of a difference in the first place. Grounding tamps down the emotions, while Centering allows for personal analysis of the situation, if you will. For instance, I see memes throughout Facebook and Twitter that can get my blood boiling. However, taking a small amount of time to Ground and Center will lead me to a single question: is my input on the topic going to add to the topic or enhance some of the conversation by providing a different perspective or will it be nothing more than the angry back-and-forth noise we constantly see online? If it’s the first, I will pursue the topic from my perspective. If not, which is far more often the case, I move on without a comment. For me, this has made my interactions on Facebook and Twitter far lower in frequency. It has also allowed me to retain some of my own personal dignity by not stooping into the digital mud.

Like I said before, these are the techniques that I know of and use. There are other techniques and perspectives. The Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids (OBOD) has a video on what they term as the “Deep Peace of the Tree Meditation” that I have found to be useful when I have trouble grounding and centering. You will likely need to find some methodology of grounding and centering that works specifically for you. I do not – and will never – claim my techniques to be the quintessential methods for others.

Hopefully, some of this makes sense to those of you reading the blog. Even if all you get out of this is to start your own search for something that helps you to ground and center – you have started fresh down your own trail. Remember to be true to yourself. If a technique doesn’t work for you…that’s ok. Experiment, continue to search, tweak the technique into visualizations that have meaning to you. You’re unique. Sometimes it takes a bit more work than you thought. And that’s ok.

–Tommy /|\

Photo by Inzmam Khan on Pexels.com

One Pagan’s Perspective. One Druid’s Approach.

I remember being very public about my beliefs when I was in the Air Force, particularly when I was stationed overseas in Germany. I also remember the numerous questions, accusations, and “Christian” vitriol that was thrown directly at me. Brining all of that back into my thinking, I also recall how angry all of that would make me.

When I was stationed at Carswell Air Force Base in Fort Worth, it was easy to step away from all the backlash I got as a new Pagan. Yes, I was quite open about my beliefs, mainly because within the United States military, I was afforded quite a bit of protection that I would never have seen in the civilian world. This was the mid-1980s, during the Satanic Panic that gripped much of the United States. In Texas, declaring that you were a Pagan openly was enough to have a visit from Child Protective Services to your home – if you had children. The likelihood of keeping your children was extremely low. Thanks to books from authors such as Mike Warnke, Lawrence Pazder, and Lauren Stratford (among others), along with “testimonies” provided by many others at church gatherings, television/radio appearances, and the emergence of what many had referred to as “counter-culture religions” (Paganism being included in this group), many Right-wing Conservative Christians seized on the narrative declaring that there was a “war on the American culture.” If that sounds familiar, you need only look to author and television nut-job Bill O’Reilly to find a new gathering to that clarion call.

I lived through all of that. However, as a military member, I had some insulation from the fallout that occurred to others. However, even within the military, I received some flak for my open beliefs. When I was in Germany, I was physically assaulted by two individuals in the lobby of the base’s Allied Post Office at 1:30am after leaving my shift to go home. That occurred because my picture had been posted in the Stars and Stripes newspaper, in an article titled “Practicing Pagans”. One of the duty section supervisors, for the Patch and Test section, would refer to me openly as “the NCO who can’t deal with reality.” So, while I was protected by the military’s policies concerning religious beliefs, that didn’t completely isolate me from the ire of others that felt I was some “kooky” guy. Plus, that’s a perspective I have heard all my life, so it was really nothing new.

The period of time I am referring to is from 1986 to 1994, the entirety of my Air Force career. During all of that, I was a fiery individual. I was very easy to piss off, and quick to take exception to anything derogatory that was said to me. Looking back, I’m fairly certain that I was not a nice person to be. To put it in terminology that I would have related to much easier back in those days – I was a hand grenade just waiting to have my pin pulled. It would take a few more years before I learned the grounding and centering techniques (thanks Tasia!) that help me get back to the center and balance that a Libra always seems to need.

So why the look back? Well, I see a lot more people in the Pagan community that seem to be reaching that same enraged breaking point, particularly online. I can’t – and won’t – control the way someone reacts or lives through their daily lives. Nor will I say that there are no situations where that anger and rage is justified. Every moment, every encounter, every person is different. However, there are certainly times where being the cooler head in that moment might keep things from escalating into something that whirls out of control and becomes something that no one wanted. For me, when I get involved in these situations – even in online dialogue – I do my best to take a step back and strip out the emotional verbiage and look at the situation again. Honestly, this methodology works better in online conversations since those can be as analog as we may need them to be. Face-to-face, that ability to step back and bring the conversation to a more analog pace is not always available, given the direct, dynamic pace that such a communications method creates.

Many people get frustrated when I take a step back from a conversation. I believe one person referred to it is “disengaging from the conversation.” That’s actually a good descriptive and a rather true statement. When I feel a conversation gets too contentious, or I feel it is already spiraling into some aspect of “my dick is bigger than yours” moment – I will back away. I simply have no desire to turn my own personal faith into a nasty back and forth. I have no desire to prove why my beliefs are better than someone else’s. What’s right for me is not necessarily right for someone else. Typically, when I get pressed into such a corner, I’ll back away and shut down the conversation. I do the same in political discussions as well. To me, there’s no reason to prove to anyone that “mine is better than yours.” I left that shit behind when I graduated high school. All I wish to do is to be myself and be provided the same freedom to make my own choices as anyone else.

I have met many people who disagree with the way I handle such things. They will make commentary that I needed to “crush” my opponent in such discussions. Again, this is a product of “winning” the point. You see it all the time in politics here in the United States. Who won the Presidential debate? From my point of view, who cares? I look more to who provided a more lucid perspective of what they are willing to get accomplished, and how are they going to find ways to cooperate with the other side of the aisle. As of the last few political cycles…the answers is, sadly enough, none of them. Because the focus on politics has moved away from how to govern to just winning the election – thank you President Trump for turning elections into nothing more than a contest of which party is more popular now. But I digress.

Lately, I have found myself withdrawing more and more from the constant bickering, arguing, and back-and-forth meme wars that take place on Facebook and Twitter. All of that is a huge turn-off moment for me. I continue to read the news, filtering out the bias that is provided by a news media that has felt the need to slant the news to the left or the right. That does make reading the news tedious and tiresome. Thus, I don’t read all of the news. I just read enough to get the idea and move along.

Like I noted before, not everyone is going to agree with me. Nor do I expect anyone to do so. That’s right. I don’t expect a single person to agree with me. I know my mind. I know my thoughts. I know my perspective on things. I don’t pretend to know what others feel. Nor do I try to tell people how they should live their beliefs, what their morals should be, or how they should handle their daily Spiritual practice. I have no desire to be the Pagan Spirituality Police. I feel that everyone has to experience Life for themselves. Experiencing their daily Spirituality under the way I see the world around me just biases their perspective. Certainly, some of my experiences can be used as some type of guide for others, but ultimately what I experienced will quite likely be different from their own. Perhaps even so different that their experiences will be the opposite of what I experienced. After all, I’m just one Pagan. I’m just one Druid. My tools to keep me moving forward in Life are simple: grounding and centering. Just one Pagan’s perspective. Just one Druid’s approach. Your mileage is your own.

–Tommy /|\

Quiet Restart in a Familiar Place

I am now ensconced in the Enchanted Retreat, a lovely little locale just north and west of Mancos, Colorado. On my list trip here, six years ago, this was the little cabin-ish location that I had stayed at before. Here, its quiet, peaceful, and the wildlife is teeming right outside the window. So far, I have seen a Blue Jay, some chipmunks, hummingbirds, and a few other birds that I cannot readily identify. Right now, I am watching two hummingbirds playing a game of chase around the feeder. The only sounds I can hear, aside from the various birds, is the hum of the fans laid out throughout this small house, blowing air around. Yeah, its hot. No central air to the location, which is perfectly fine. In a way of thinking, it’s a much simpler life than I am used to back in central Tejas. It is peaceful, tranquil, and exactly what I need at this point in my daily life.

I had many intentions in coming back here – mostly to reset things in my life. One was to hike the Petroglyph Point Trail in Mesa Verde National Park and leave an offering to Crow. My offering was intended to be loose-leaf tobacco, some water, and a few words of my own to give thanks. However, I have learned that the National Park Service does expressly ask for offerings not to be left within the Park. Two of the First Nations elders that I speak with frequently via Email have also stated that it is best to follow the advice of the National Park Service. One noted that I could hold such an offering of thanks in my own backyard, along with a small fire. “Crow will not care where the offering is made, so long as it is made.” So, my idea to walk Petroglyph Point Trail to specifically leave an offering will transform to something else done back home.

As I have noted before, I am not of the People, the People specifically being the First Nations people. I follow and work with two First Nations Gods, but my purpose is not to enact the rituals and ceremonies of the First Nations folks. I am not here to become one of the People. Their culture is specifically theirs, not mine. My work with Crow and Coyote is far different, and much more personally between myself and Them. However, I have gathered relationships with some First Nations peoples, who follow a similar Spirituality, and I consult with them whenever I feel I might be stepping over some boundary that I shouldn’t be. Just sayin’, for all those that would accuse me of “cultural appropriation.” Many may still see it that way, but I continue under the perspective that the Gods call who the Gods call.

In the meantime, the trip here to south-western Colorado will continue with other pursuits. There is a narrow rail train that travels between Durango and Silverton (further up the mountain). A large portion of the trip is alongside the banks of the Animas River. This river has its own draw for me. The river was named “Rio de las Animas Perdidas” by the Spanish explorer Juan Maria de Rivera. The name loosely translates to “the river of Lost Souls” which reportedly was to commemorate the people who had lost their lives in the river. Whatever the case may be, the river has a quality about it that suggests that life is its primary function or purpose – or at least it does to me. In Durango, there is a large section of the city that is near it, which has that natural feel of home for me. Were I able to afford such a move, this is where I would probably live.

Another day trip will be taken into an area known as “The Canyon of the Ancients.” From what I have read, this is a rather primitive area, and my truck’s four-wheel drive capabilities may be utilized. I am not sure what to expect, though there are warnings of mountain lions within the area. Going too far from the truck will probably not be a good idea.

As I said before, this trip is my chance to put a lot of things into the “reset” basket. Life has not been particularly easy over the last eighteen months. Here, I get the chance to be away from a lot of the distractions that I see, while taking the time to sort through some of the bigger issues that I still must deal with. Last night, by the way, was one of the most relaxing, undisturbed nights I have had within that eighteen months. I have; however, had a chance to digest a lot over that same time frame – enough to know what I do not want. Now, its just a matter of putting all the rest of the pieces together into a coherent picture and moving forward from that point. First, however, I have three days to enjoy an area of the United States that I can truly describe as “home.”

–Tommy

This is the same landscape that I had in my photos from the Strawberry Super Moon some six years ago. The area is slightly obscured now from the smoke of wildfires in the states just west of here.

Photos from this trip will be posted on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/tommyelf022/

Thinking About: Offerings

With the upcoming trip to Mesa Verde, I will be returning to the spot where I had a strong “moment” with Crow. This time around, I plan on bringing an offering with me. The notation of this prompted some questions being tossed to me about what I mean by that. Specifically, Karen S. wanted to know what ritual I was planning on doing for the offering. J. Thompson wanted to know what I was considering using for an offering and why. Fair questions, indeed. So, I gathered those up for today’s blog post.

Why Offerings

Thinking this through, there is a bit of a need to cover the reasoning behind offerings. In this instance, I am providing my thanks for the last six years of guidance. In returning to where I was provided with what I now consider to be “stern advice.” Crow’s message of “keep going” was meant to be more than just walking the Petroglyph Point Trail, and more than just working my way through the second passageway. That voice has echoed in my mind at several points in the past six years. A reminder to not stop moving forward, even when the prospectus seemed to be completely bleak and lonely. That voice has reminded me that what’s in the past remains in the past – exactly where it belongs. The only way through things is to go forward. So, my return to that point on the trail is about providing my thanks for that message. It will also serve as a “thank you” for the Spirits of the Land and the Spirits of Place for looking out for me as I moved through the trail in a reckless manner.

Ritual

Well, this usually winds up being a controversial part of anything that I try to explain concerning my daily practice. My rituals are simplistic. I don’t call quarters. I don’t call directions. I don’t even make a circle. I take the time to offer my ritual space to Whoever or Whatever may be watching, so long as They come without malicious intent. Then I do whatever the meat of my ritual is, and then close by thanking Whoever or Whatever decided to watch. Simple as that. My offering rituals are even simpler. I take a few moments to ground and center, using that time to bring myself to a place of calm. Then I provide whatever I am offering and give thanks to Whoever or Whatever I am providing the offering to. Then I take a few more moments to bring myself back to the awareness of the environment around me and I move on. I know some of this will sound silly to some – especially those who place a great deal of importance on elaborate (or what I consider to be elaborate) ritual gestures and intonations. Honestly, there’s nothing wrong with any of that – its just not what I do. When I am with others, I defer to whatever everyone else wants to do. But when I’m alone, I keep it as simplistic as possible. Some might even call it primitive. ::shrug:: It works for me.

What to Offer

I know a lot of Pagans and Druids that pour libations to their Gods and Goddesses as offerings. Typically, these seem to be alcoholic in nature. That’s perfectly fine for what they do. Nine Hells, their Gods and Goddesses may have made it known to them that was what was needed. Who am I to say that’s right or wrong? Not my Gods, not a request from my Gods. Just like my rituals are simplistic, I do the same for what I offer.

My typical fare is birdseed, tobacco, water, or some combination of that. As a follower of Crow, I figure that the birdseed is a fairly understood gesture. With Abnoba, a forest Goddess, the birdseed also makes sense there as well. Usually, I go with a Birdsong mix that I pick up in large bags at my local Wal-Mart. A ten-pound bag will usually last my three-to-four weeks. Yes, I do frequent offerings in the backyard using this.

With Crow and Coyote being First Nations Gods, the offering of tobacco is a somewhat standard gesture within First Nations’ cultures. In a manner of speaking, I am borrowing from those cultures with this offering. However, I am not trying to pretend that I am on the same standing as the People (the First Nations’ cultures) are. My offerings do not come with the pretense that I am doing medicine of any kind. I am merely making a familiar offering to a pair of Gods I work with. My go-to for this is any loose-leaf chewing tobacco product, which typically means ‘Red Man”. Unfortunate branding name, but the pouch version of this product tends to work best for my purposes.

Water is probably the easiest of the offerings to understand. Just as was stated constantly during the Standing Rock protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline, “water is life.” I provide water in most of my offering rituals for this very reason. If possible, I leave the water in a vessel that local wildlife can easily access. If not, I will pour a small amount while quietly stating that “water is life.”

Again, my offerings are kept simple and to the point. One reason is that I prefer the simplicity of such gestures. Another is that I can do these quickly in public places, such as Petroglyph Point Trail, without drawing undue or unwanted attention. The public practice of my beliefs is not meant to be a sideshow for others to gawk at. Thus, I keep my offering gestures short, simple, and concise. The shortness does not lessen the depth of what I am doing or what I am offering. I know that doesn’t work for everyone. It does for me.

Final Thoughts

I am a solo pagan. A single Druid. Just one guy. Much of what I do is kept simple because its what I am comfortable with. I don’t wear robes. The only true piece of “ritual” clothing I have is a cloak, which is not the most comfortable thing to wear in the Tejas heat. Most of the time, I am wearing a concert t-shirt, jeans and boots or tennis shoes. I dress for comfort. When I am comfortable, ritual comes far easier for me. I keep my offerings simple. Unless my Gods or my Goddess ask for something different. They haven’t. Yet. Maybe it happens one day, but in the meantime, I stick to what I know, understand, and can manage on my own. Keeping it simple. After all, I’m just a simple Pagan Druid trying to make my way through this everyday journey that we call Life.

–Tommy

Going Back to Mesa Verde

There are a few places in the world where I feel completely at home. The Black Forest region in Germany holds a very special connection for me that goes all the way back into my early childhood. The northern tier of the Rocky Mountains is another region that has a strong connection for me. A little further east, the mid-western plains have always provided super strong connections. Then there’s the extraordinary feelings that I get within Carlsbad Caverns. However, all these places have provided strong connective aspects with Spirits of Place, but never with specific Gods. There is a place where I have had that moment – Mesa Verde in south-western Colorado.

I blogged about this particular moment while I was on vacation in the area around Mesa Verde. Coming face-to-face with a God, even a Trickster God, can be a touch unsettling – especially when you are not expecting it to happen. And I would posit that most of the time, a first encounter (which this was not) is an unexpected moment for most.

Honestly, I was just walking the Petroglyph Point Trail at Mesa Verde to get a photograph of the petroglyphs at the end of the trail. The trailhead was near the Visitor’s Center and was paved, so it didn’t seem like a difficult walk. However, the trail soon devolved into a dirt path along a cliff face. At a few points, the trail worked downwards to the edge along broken rock. The only thing I had to assist me were various trees. I could have easily stepped on loose gravel and rocks and slid off the trail quite easily. So, the walk was not the easiest. I also did a stupid thing – I went alone. I could have sustained any kind of injury that would have immobilized me, and I would have been hoping for someone to come along the trail after me. Have I ever mentioned that I do reckless things from time to time without thinking of what might happen? Yeah. So very much me.

However, at the end of the trail, I did something even more reckless. I climbed up the broken rocks next to the petroglyphs – which is not the way up to the top of the mesa. Halfway up, I kept thinking that this was a rather dangerous way to have people get to the top of the mesa. It wasn’t until two years ago (my original trip was in 2015), that I found out that the trail continued to a much easier to navigate staircase. Yeah. So very much me.

So here I am in 2021. The pandemic has subsided – for the most part. I still carry my mask with me everywhere I go. I still wear my mask when I am in public places, even though most people have completely eschewed the continued wearing of the mask. I’m vaccinated but am still cautious around other people. In my mind, this pandemic is not completely over – yet. However, I do have a need to get out of Tejas, even if just for a week. I just need to be cautious. No need for reckless behavior. Not now.

Part of the plan is to visit Mesa Verde and walk Petroglyph Point Trail again. This time, I plant to carry water, a rudimentary first aid kit, some granola bars for energy, my walking staff, and a pouch of tobacco. The tobacco will be to provide an offering at each of the two passageways I walked through before. I’ll also be carrying my phone with me, even though there is no cell reception along the trail. This will serve as my camera and keep the weight down from my Canon and its lenses. I’ll also not be trying to walk the trail nearly as quickly as I did the first time. No need to be careless.

While in the area, I will also make a visit out to Canyon of the Ancients. On my 2015 visit, I did not get the chance to visit here. I will also be taking the steam engine trip up to Silverton from Durango. This will also allow me to see the Animus river there in Durango as well. And yes, I will be blogging while I am on this trip.

The trip serves a dual purpose as being a vacation, of sorts – as well as pilgrimage for me. This area holds very special meaning to my Spirituality, and I am extremely excited to be returning. As with any pilgrimage or visit to a site that I consider sacred, this is not just about taking pictures, but concerns bringing me back to a particular state of mind and being. My last eighteen months have been a period of tumultuous change – some good, most not. Mesa Verde was picked as a first major trip after the pandemic specifically to help me bring things back around full circle – to provide a little boost in nudging me back on to the track that I belong. To that end, I am cautious, but optimistic. Part of change is a frame of mind. Another part is action. Thus, I will have a lot of time for thinking, outlining, and determining my first steps of getting back on track. Nothing heavy. Gentle, but firm steps towards getting back to where I really need to be.

So, I am winding this down after a day of thinking about this and trying to write about it. I hope you’ll join me along for the trip – here on the blog. I am not sure where I will be posting pictures of the trip – maybe Instagram, maybe Tumblr. Wherever I do, I’ll post the link here in each of the blog posts. Looking forward to sharing some of my trip with you.

–Tommy

Different Footfalls, As It Should Be

There is no secret of my struggles to figure out what type of Druid I am aiming towards being. Much of those struggles have come from my reluctance to handle and work with the term “Priest.” With my personal life undergoing some whiplash-style changes, trying to work through all of that, along with juggling this singular perspective of my own Spirituality resulted in nothing less than an epic train wreck. Now, having patched my own personal life back into the ragged blanket I have always come to expect it to be, I have had the time to turn back to the question of what kind of Druid will I be with a better degree of focus. Over the past few weeks, this process has brought about a few reminders that I had forgotten.

When I started down this Path with the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids (OBOD), now nearly two decades ago, I was quite unsure of where things were going to go. Even after I finished my Bardic grade and entered my Ovate studies, I still struggled over finding a role that I could carve out of all of this – a role that could provide a sense of belonging and purpose. A few overtly Christian friends who read the blog noted that all of this was a “sign” from God that I was on the wrong track – that I needed to re-enter the Christian faith that I left behind back in the mid-1980s. None of that could be further from the truth, though. I am a Polytheistic Pagan through-and-through. The Christian faith does not relate to me. I respect it as being a Path for others, but not for me and so many other people. However, I still struggled with finding a purpose for what I was to be.

Where were these Druidry studies taking me? What was I hoping to accomplish? What was I going to give back to my wider Pagan community through the things that I do? I have talked this over a few times with Pagans I deeply admire that I could reach at points of crisis in my thinking. A few suggested getting back to podcasting. In the beginnings of that, the goal was to provide something back to my community by show-casing the thoughts of others. The download numbers were never all that great to begin with, and in the end I realized that so many other podcast shows did a far better job than I could ever dream of. While it was fun, it never really felt like it worked out that well. So, at that point, I turned to blogging as that creative outlet. While the aggregate numbers have never really been that great, I came to realize that what I blogged would be available through WordPress for many folks to encounter later. Thus, I have kept on with what I have been doing. Granted, its not always timely…and much like this current post – I have tried – sometimes in vain – to keep a consistent schedule. But life does get in the way.

Despite all of that, I have yet to find my role from my own studies. I don’t take students, even though I have been a successful professor and facilitator in the collegiate classroom. I have found that while I may be successful in a role in the mundane world, that doesn’t usually translate into the same in the Pagan world. Several Pagan friends have noted that my written words have been helpful in getting certain points across. So, maybe there is some aspect of teaching that does translate there.

Seemingly, the sticking point has been – and continues to be – the term “Priest.” I am a Priest though – something that I have learned to acknowledge openly. I am a Priest of one – me. I handle my own need for ritual. I handle my own daily Spiritual practice. As a solo practitioner that works well for me. Public ritual? Not so much. Frankly, I suck greatly in this area. Facilitating a ritual experience for others is most likely not an appropriate Path for me. I am asked to participate in OBOD rituals that I attend, but I believe that is since I will willingly volunteer, so long as there is a script I can read. ::grin::

Still, I struggle with what my role is. Over the past few weeks, I have spent a lot of walking meditation time thinking this over. At one point, I started going over old journal notes from back in 2007.

In the Bardic lessons, I can sense a need for a personal role to be focused upon and developed. I wonder, sometimes, if my role is better served by aim[ing] at a solitary Path? I work through these Gwers studies alone. Perhaps, that’s the hint at the Path I should be headed towards? Definitely, a thought worth pondering.

–Tommy, 16Nov07

Looking through these older entries, I have realized that I have struggled greatly with the public aspect of Druidry and Paganism for a long time. My answer: however, was directly in front of me. I do not need to have a defined role to be the Druid I am. My walk is my own. Druidry is not a matter of definition. My role only needs to be what I need at that moment. The term of “Priest” is just that – a term. The definition of what it is or is not comes from the individual not from some arcane dictionary. If my function as a Priest does not match what someone else believes it should be – that is perfectly fine. My Path is mine. I do have the same studies as others within the OBOD grades. However, the way I approach those studies is solely my own.

What role do I have? Well, that’s simple as well. My role is to be myself. I don’t have to fit into someone else’s definition of what a Druid or Priest is. If my approach doesn’t fit into someone else’s paradigm, then they should find their own way or look to a group that fits better for them. No judgment. No worries. The Pagan Path is wide enough for all kinds of approaches, even those diametrically opposed to one another. I am not foolish enough to claim my own Spiritual Path as being the “only way”. Everyone must walk their own Path. Their footfalls are very likely to be different than my own. As it should be.

Going forward, I will very likely have the same feeling of avoidance that I have had in the past towards the concept of a “Priest.” That is personal programming that will take some time to move beyond. However, that deprogramming does not need to be front and center. There are so many other things that take a heavier precedence over that. Most of all – just living. After all, its just a term. A single, simple word. While words do have meaning, the depth of that meaning is ascribed to it by the individual. Just a thought.

–Tommy

Walk softly through the desert sand
Old dreams lead the way
Nothing new in the sands of time
Just changes every day


Hang on – It’s starting again
Hang on – There’s no shelter from the wind
Hang on – Like a fire from the sky
Winds of change are blowing by

Jefferson Starship, “Winds of Change” from the album “Modern Times”

Not Another Beltane Rant…No Not Really

Its Beltane time again. I’ve written so often about how the very public aspect of this point on the Wheel of the Year is one of my least favorite times of the year. Plus, I have explored my move away from basing my entire Spiritual Path on the Wheel of the Year, so it might be a better step to look at where things are these days. Maybe. 😊

As I get older, the timing of the Wheel of the Year means less and less to me, with the sole exception of Samhain. I use this point in the Wheel as a marker of time, so it’s a useful part of my Spiritual practice. But the rest of the Wheel, just does not carry the significance for me that it used to. Instead, my focus tends to be on the weather around me. I mark the seasons as the weather changes.

Yes, that is correct. I moved away from date-based applications to my Spirituality to event-based application. The shape of the moon carries some aspect to my daily practice, but not much. I am more of a Sun person than a Moon one. Thus, I look at what is taking place within my local environment to work certain aspects of my Spirituality.

For this time of year, I look to the budding of trees and flowers. For me, that signifies the beginnings of Spring. Since I grow no crops, I don’t aim anything towards that aspect. When the weather stays warm, and the trees and flowers are well into their new growth, I spend a few minutes in a self-created ritual in thanks for the new season. My idea of Beltane falls far away from the overly sexualized aspect that it has seemingly become within the wider Pagan community. Spring marks the advent of new beginnings for me.

I understand that much of what I am putting forth here flies in the face of what is taught in today’s contemporary Paganism. The Wheel of the year provides a map towards ritual aspects for many practitioners. I also grok that this works for so many folks out there. What I am not saying is that what I am doing is something that should be followed by ANY SINGLE Pagan out there – save for myself. Laying down “rules” and “laws” within a Spiritual structure that provides such open and fertile ground for exploration…well, that would be completely fucking stupid of me. I know what works in my own Spiritual practice. Telling others what to do would be completely inane for me to do.

Why would I do this? Stepping away from what can be claimed as “established” Pagan practice would mean that I am no longer Pagan, right? Well, if that’s what you think: awesome. For me, part of being a Pagan is finding out what works for you Spiritually and doing that, rather than staying within a strict, confined set of rules that do not let you grow Spiritually as an individual.

Usually, the next question is what would I do at a public event that follows the Wheel of the Year for its ritual? Well, that’s simple. I would follow what is being done. Attending that event, I would already have been aware of what was being done. If I was asked to handle a role in the ritual – and I have done this in the past – I would do exactly that. I would handle the role to the very best of my ability, putting every aspect of myself into that collective set of moments. When working in a public ritual setting, I am working the requested role for others – not just myself. I am adding to the collective experience. Pissing on that fire…in my opinion, is bad form. Plus, being honest here, if I attended a gathering of folks – I am there for the folks. Like anyone else, I do enjoy the company of like-minded people.

So, that handles the Beltane and Wheel of the Year stuff, but it adds in the complications of doing ritual with others when my personal and daily practices are different from theirs. Yes, I am a member of the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids. Yes, I have – and continue – to learn the materials from the Order. Yes, I strive to make it through the three grades. However, I do not utilize everything that I learn. Does that make me a bad Druid? Does it disqualify me as a Druid? Should I have my Druid license revoked? My answer to all three of those questions is “no.” I do have a question about what a Druid license is, and what public government facility I need to visit to obtain one. 😊 However, if my utilizing some aspects of what I learn from the Order’s material and not all of it would disqualify me from what would be considered a “Druid” – I would completely understand, and quietly walk away. I’d still consider myself a Druid though and find other ways and sources to learn from. Much like drinking water can be found at one well-spring, should I be forced away from that source, I can certainly find other places to quench my thirst.

After nearly thirty-five years on my Pagan path, one valuable lesson I have learned is that you get to decide what does and does not work for you. You decide what “rules” and what “laws” can apply to your own Spirituality. You get to make sense of the world around you. Or, to quote Pink Floyd:

While you were hanging yourself on someone else’s words
Dying to believe in what you heard
I was staring straight into the shining sun

Pink Floyd, “Coming Back to Life”

Certainly, there will be those that disagree with me. Some will be vehement in their perspective. Others will say that I am not a true “this” or “that”. Me? All I can do is shrug and answer that I must stay true to myself.

–Tommy

Moon photo, Hillsboro, Texas (4/26/2021)

Dark Spirituality, Light Spirituality – Two Sides of the same D20

The past few posts, I have dug a little deeper into my own personal story, but as one reader (who wished to not be named) mentioned that I do not tend to delve much into the darker side of my own Spirituality. This is an interesting point. Most aspects of my Spirituality can be described as some degree of neutral between light and darkness. Rather than using the extremely common dichotomous perspective of light and dark being either side of a coin, I tend to see this lightness and darkness aspect as something similar to twenty-sided die, with one being one end of the spectrum, and twenty being the other side. Numbers two through nineteen shade closer to whichever perspective that each is closer to. If you work out the differences, you will find that there is no true neutral position, as ten and eleven provide the exact middle – one to each side.

Yeah, its not a perfect example, I do not think there could ever be something that would be – at least not in my eyes. Nor do I assign positive to light or negative to darkness. Positive and Negative are not so easily denoted in my view. After all, in the darkness, there can be found help, knowledge and even love. Its the intent of how each is used that provides the positive and the negative perspectives.

Most of my Spiritual work is held somewhere between the two points. With two Trickster Gods, sometimes delving into the darkness provides a better solution to my questions than seeking out the light. Plus, Coyote, and sometimes even Wolf, will set me down that path into the darkened woods.

So why do I tend to work between the two extremes, rather than just diving full depth into one or the other? Well, I’m your typical Libra. I always strive to find the balance of the fulcrum. This is one of the reasons that I cannot rail so deeply against Christian belief. Do not mistake what I am saying. I am not a Christian. Their belief system does not work for me at all. I tried Christianity, and found it to be a complete anathema for me. That does not mean I do not see the beauty in what is practiced, nor can I condemn the strong piety of its followers – provided that their fervent belief does not take them down the same road as John the Baptist – convert or die. In my experience, forced conversion is a tactic of those that must have their faith validated by any means, but that’s a discussion for another time, as this leads us down a trail I was not intending to go. Most Christians that I have encountered are more than willing to share their Gospel with you, but very few do so and rain anger upon you when you politely decline. As I have always said, adult discourse is far better than yelling, shouting and pushing.

Now my personal perspective on the Christian faith is an example of trying to find that balance between dark and light. Within many Pagan traditions is also the practice of cursing individuals. Not exactly my favorite tactic, but it can have its uses. For me, if an individual harasses you, utilizing a curse on them is akin to dropping a nuclear bomb to swat a fly. Your use of it is certainly up to you…I tend to keep my usage of this to an absolute minimum within my life. In fact, I can say with all certainty that I have not utilized a curse against a single individual. I opt for more direct approaches to solving such issues, such as confronting an individual directly. Should that not work, magickally there is always the use of binding magicks, essentially placing a boundary against the individual from being in your world space with their negativity. Have I used it before? Yes. But very sparingly. Again, I prefer the face-to-face, direct approach wherever I can manage it.

Where I utilize such measures as cursing and binding sparingly, I also eschew from using magick to help provide assistance or help to things that I want around me as well. I don’t see magick as a toy that I play with nor do I see magick as a first alternative in anything within my life, thus the “dark” or “light” application of it has always been as a last resort for me. And to be completely certain, binding, cursing, using magick to obtain results, protective barriers, and what else you can come up with are not automatically dark or light parts of Spirituality for me. Its the individual intent behind each of these magickal tools (how I actually see these to methodologies to really be) that provides the dark or light aspect.

Going from a psychological perspective, everyone has a so-called “dark” side to their existence. Really, I’m no different. Hurt or threaten the people that I love….well, let’s just say that Coyote and Crow help reinforce my “happier” side, but Wolf certainly can embody that darker aspect. While I love Wolf dearly, I do my best not to let Him have control too much. Life is certainly more interesting with Coyote or Crow at the helm. Or at least, I tend to think so.

Gizmo hiding…sort of

There other aspects of the “darker” Spirituality that manifest themselves in my studies. Sometimes, what I learn about feels like an old forest, where the canopy of the tall trees muffles the sunlight and the wind barely rises within the underside of the canopy. Such an environment can be a scary and daunting place to travel, especially when you know not what might lurk in that dark, stifling environment. However, sometimes your studies can take you to such places, and you have to ratchet up your resolve to enter, and open yourself to what you experience. What I have encountered within, both in real life and within the Spiritual realm, has been uncanny and frightening, but some of those lessons have been the deepest that I have experienced. As Robert Cray says in his hit song “Don’t be afraid of the Dark.”

Honestly, it took me a long time to realize that my Spirituality encompassed a darker side that I need to embrace. Working with that darker side has taken even longer, and I am still slightly uncomfortable when I utilize it. However, its there when I need it. I just hope to never have a need to utilize it. Sort of like my staff and my sword. I have a staff that I use for walking. I hope that is all I ever need it for. And should the staff prove not to be enough, I have my sword, and my knives. I’m not a gun owner. Not because I am anti-gun for everyone…just that I don’t want one. And that is also a conversation for another time.

–T /|\

Examining My Own “Roadcraft”

So, this blog post was due, in the informal schedule, yesterday. I try my very best to make a Tuesday-Thursday-Weekend posting schedule for the week. Sometimes it doesn’t happen because I’m on the road or sometimes because I get horrible writer’s block (like yesterday). I have a little army of writing prompts that I tend to use as topics to mull on, but I do not have an army of blog posts waiting to be unleashed on the world. I do not prefer to write ahead of time, as it removes the wonderful feeling of organic writing that I get from sitting at a keyboard and writing my topic from the top of my head. This is a style that I am very used to. I utilized this same style of writing through a Bachelors degree and two Masters degrees. Apparently it worked well enough for me to pass my classes. 🙂

So, yesterday, I spent a lot of the day reading – trying to find something that worked from beyond my writing prompts (none of which were really sparking anything). Currently, I am reading ‘Anthem: Rush in the 70s” by Martin Popoff, which has turned out to be a very interesting view of Rush from behind, and off, the stage. In a passage at the end of the chapter on the album “Caress of Steel,” Neil Peart makes a point on Life being like a long, never-ending road – a rather poignant comment from someone who has done such extensive touring throughout the world. And I realized that this commentary was so fitting to my life. Let me share with you part of Neil’s comments.

“And then the broader education of being on the roads every day on my bicycle,” continues Neil, touching down again upon the hobby he famously wrote about, followed by similar books about motorcycling. “I was out there among people. The thing that I still preserve today on the motorcycle and riding through their towns, I go down roads every day that nobody goes down unless they live there, all these back little parts of the United States and Canada that I’ve come to know and still hunger to explore every day. I go by people that work, and I keep a perspective on my life with that. And yes, I might have sore hands and the show might be a tremendous physical ordeal, but every day I’m walking past people who are working in the fields, working on the roads, all the things that normal people do. So it keeps my perspective so much more rooted in that.”

Popoff, Martin. “Anthem: Rush in the ’70s”. ECW Press, Toronto, Canada. p. 224

There is no secret that I identify greatly with the late Neil Peart, particularly through his status as the primary writer of lyrics for the band. I have a few of his books as well, and his writings touch me very deeply in the core of who I am. His attention to the details around him, the way he connects on a visceral level to what he observes in the environment inspires me to do similar deep dives of my own into how my Spirituality continues to inform the way I see and connect to the worlds around me. his observation here is part of a greater point, where he is noting that as an opening act (Remember “Caress of Steel” was released September 24, 1975 – Rush had not struck it big as a musical act at this point), the band would play twenty to twenty-five minutes per day. That left approximately twenty-three and a half hours of what Neil described as “nothing to do.” Its this twenty-three and a half hours of being on the road between gig dates that Neil calls “roadcraft.” He utilized that time to broaden his personal education. He read. At the cities that they came to, he went to the art museums. Between the cities, he would have the tour bus drop him off about one-hundred miles from the next city, and he would bike the rest of the way in – on the back roads.

In reading this particular section about “roadcraft”, I realized that there is a lot of empty time in my life that I can make use of. My work with OBOD’s gwers-work inside each grade is an example of some of the “roadcraft” that I do. Same with all the documentaries that I watch, all the books that I read, and even all the music that I listen to. Every time I ride my Peloton bike, I am utilizing an aspect of “roadcraft” in exercising my body in the same way I have been exercising my mind. I am good at database work, and various sundry aspects of Information Technology. Like Rush playing their music on the stage, this is what I do. But I don’t do this twenty-four hours a day. What happens outside of that is essentially the “roadcraft” that I put into my daily life. What I spend my time with matters.

Lately, well over the past four months, I have found myself being drawn into argument after argument within Facebook. About a week back, I started to realize that even jumping into these arguments to display just my singular perspective a single time (I follow a perspective of making my point once, and then repeating it one more time for clarity) was essentially a waste of time. With the safety of physical distance (and in some cases anonymity) playing into others’ perspectives, many people make derisive and divisive commentary to merely cause chaos or to get a “rise” out of other people. That’s not my personal paradigm. I prefer calm, rational discussion over argument and debate. I am not trying to solve the world’s problems or trying to change anyone’s mind. I prefer to provide an alternative point of thought. Whether it gets dismissed out of hand or not, matters not one bit to me. However, just as 2015-2016 was filled with frenetic “debate” and over-heated argument – 2020 is shaping up much the same way. My personal “roadcraft” is going to lead me away from a lot of this. I am not in the habit of telling people how they should vote nor am I about to start. I will; however, encourage people to get registered to vote and make their own minds up on how they should cast their opinion.

In a sense, its about time for me to re-evaluate pieces of my “roadcraft” and insure that I am headed down a Path that I prefer and not being swept along with the current of a mindless mob. What about you? Have you ever taken the time to evaluate where your “roadcraft” is taking you along your Path? I’m not saying that you should or that you need to do this – that’s your choice to make. I’m just offering up the potential idea of looking into that. 🙂

–T /|\

Thinking About: Aptitude Testing and Personal Spirituality & Growth

What do you want to do with your life? Here, take this block of aptitude tests, so we can figure out what career path will work best for you…

I remember these kinds of questions quite well. The first one, I heard from my parents, my high school teachers, and my high school guidance counselor – ALL the time. And I honestly had no real clue. I was enthralled with the Apple //+ computers that were in a basement classroom at my high school, and completely in love with my Commodore 64 computer, but I was never really sure you could make a living with these things. The second, the statement about aptitude tests, was what the United States Air Force made me do when I had initially enlisted. I had seven months from the time I enlisted to my initial reporting date to Basic Training. In the time between, I went in for an all-day physical, where they tested my reflexes, my hearing, my sight, my teeth, my heart rate, and made me pee into a bottle for drug testing (good luck finding anything aside from alcohol). The next week, they sent me in for a series of aptitude tests called ASVAB (otherwise known as the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery). The four areas tested are Arithmetic Reasoning, Word Knowledge, Paragraph Comprehension, and Mathematics Knowledge. These are all combined into a singular score which is then utilized as an AFQT (Armed Forces Qualifying Test) which determines if you’re qualified to enlist in the US military service. That was all back in 1984, when I took the test….I know its still given, but I am not sure of how it used now. Back then, your scores helped determine what specialty job you were assigned to. Me…even with my lower mathematical scores (I only went as high as Algebra II in high school), I was placed in command-and-control systems, which included the wild world of cryptography. My ease of use and understanding of computer equipment, apparently made me ideal for this career field, and off the Air Force trundled me in that direction.

I have a lot to thank the Air Force for in that regard. They taught me a trade skill. They taught me responsibility and leadership. They also showed me that my absolute adoration of the Apple //+ and the Commodore 64 from my latter high school days, could become an occupational skill set. I shudder to think what would have happened if I had been noted as an individual with mechanical aptitude. Don’t get me wrong, I am fascinated by people who can work on engines of all sorts…but that’s just not me. No, computers were the big dream, I just had no idea how that dream could be formed and shaped – at least not until I earned my Bachelor’s degree in 2003.

All of that got me into thinking….which is why this has wound up here in a “Thinking About” segment on the blog. I wonder….how did I get to this point in my Spiritual Path? What was the “big, formless dream” that I had in regards to my personal Spirituality that led me down to here?

Fortunately, there’s no ASVAB testing to determine your faith. I mean, we had those idiotic vocational tests in high school that would attempt to determine if you were a writer or something else that it tried to determine. Mine came back with “Philosopher” – no, seriously. I figured I could get a better descriptive out of a box of Cracker Jacks. But there’s nothing like that for testing your Spirituality. Big burly guy, who likes axes and swords? Well, you belong in the Heathen club. Petite young lady who has an affinity for the color black or purple? Off down the Witch Path with you. Like wearing white and being in the forest? Welcome to Druidry! Yeah, thank the Gods that there is no ASVAB for Spirituality.

I have talked about my perspective before…I was drawn to Polytheism earlier on, thanks to my constant reading about the Greek and Roman Gods out of the encyclopedia sets in the library. But how I showed up with Druidry, was a much longer road. In the very beginning, for me, there was Wicca. And it just didn’t work. I went overseas to a new military duty station and left Wicca behind for a bit. There, I met Pagans of very different stripes, including a couple of Ceremonial Magicians. I figured out fairly fast that I wasn’t interested in that direction either. When I came back to the United States, I found a different Wiccan tradition, and give it a second try…with the same results. So I started hunting for something that might fit better – with the knowledge that I might not fit anything. I ran across Druidry through Ross Nichols’ work, “The Book of Druidry”. After reading it, I could not see how Druidry could fit into what I was trying to do…thinking that the way Druidry was described was a hard, fast set of rules. So I kept looking. Eventually, I came across Philip Shallcrass’ book, “Druidry: A Practical and Inspirational Guide” published through Piatkus Books. This made me reevaluate what I had read in Nichols’ book, and I started to realize that Druidry was a lot more than I had thought – and was far more pliable in relation to my own beliefs. This search through Druidry led me to a better understanding of how I could make Druidry my own through the OBOD teachings. And that’s the short version of how I got here.

Thinking through all of that, I wonder what would have happened way back in 1984, if I had take a Spirituality aptitude test to determine what Path I should follow. I had been through Catholic schools through the seven years of my secondary education. This included mandatory education in Catholic theology, an area I understood quite well despite my reluctance to adopt its teachings as Writ. When I started looking through other faiths, I settled on Southern Baptist for the year and a half prior to entering the United States military. This was mostly because most of the people I had as friends were Southern Baptist, and it was a way to somewhat identify with them. Again, I understand the perspective, just never really bought the idea that it was holy Writ. Where would I have wound up? Well, given the amount of programming and teaching that was poured into my head on a nearly daily basis at school…I’d probably have remained within the Catholic faith. What that would have done to me as a person, I am not even sure I want to contemplate.

Did I dream of being a Druid? Of being a Polytheist? No, I can’t really say that I did. At least not anymore than I did when I was trying to figure out kind of job a person could get for fiddling around on a computer, playing with native programming languages. Or that there was even some abstract concept such as a data-driven database that I could stuff information into.

Am I glad to be here? To be in Druidry? Of course I am. This is the best fit of anything that I have encountered for the way I view and deal with my own Spirituality. I am happy with where I am, with what I have become, and for the choices I have for what I can become. There was a lot of hardship and confusion along the way, but all of that helped me to determine ways of working through issues and problems. All of my life has been an informed process of getting to this point and will continue to do so going forward. Honestly, I would not have it any other way – because this is me. And I am happy with me. And its been a much more logical choice and solution than what I think may occurred – had there been an aptitude test for Spiritual back in my last year of high school.

–T /|\

View From Medicine Wheel

Thinking About: Self Examination of One’s Personal Spirituality

You can always tell when I’m trying to figure out a topic for the weekend…I wait until Sunday to write the post. LOL This week is not any different because here it is – Sunday – and I am trying to figure out what to write.

I had one person write me and ask if I would write a third post on my experiences with confusing Valkyrie with the Morrigan. Well, if my memory serves me correctly – I have already done that twice. The original post, and then a follow-up. Honestly, I have no desire to retrace those steps. I got a ton of snarky comments over how I couldn’t tell the difference between the two perspectives. In my defense, I don’t work with Gods from either perspective – Irish or Greek – so being able to readily identify either would be a tough thing for me. But this road has had enough feet on it as it is…time to let the dust settle. If you want to trod down that road, I have provided links above to each of the previous posts.

So, where else to go? Maybe discuss some aspect of what it was like being a Pagan on an all-Christian shift in the Air Force? And by all-Christian, I mean evangelical Christians who were not afraid to voice their opposition to my beliefs. Maybe, but not at this point. I will save that for Tuesday – mostly because I am not sure how to frame it at this time. Hmmm….let me drink some more covfefe and think about where to go with this post today….

Ok….I am going to take a topic from another blog – Witch, Indeed by Lisa Wagoner. Her most recent post works off of the need for personal ritual to provide stability and balance in this weird, troubled times. One of the things she notes is that this is the perfect time to take stock and inventory of your personal Spiritual practice. Look over the rituals that you used to do on a regular basis, and figure out the what and why of having set this off to the side. Look at your altar (if you have one, I don’t) and see what is still appropriate and meaningful to you there. Or what needs to be added or taken away. Find an aspect of gratitude in what you do in your personal practice. What gratitude do you have in your life? And what I consider to be one of the most difficult things to – look inward at yourself. Take a long, hard, critical look at you, your practice and how those dove-tail together.

In my mind, its that last part that really speaks to what you can do concerning your Spirituality. I have heard this process called “diving deep” and then taking a look at what the world looks like to you when you surface again. I have used this technique a few times to help find some clarity to difficult questions that I just could not seem to find appropriate answers for. But in this instance, its a critical examination of your own practice. The whole thing.

Being honest, daily ritual is a hard thing to accomplish for me during this quasi-quarantine. However, I do have daily routines that I never considered to be a rituals until a few years ago. Trying to rise before the sun and greet the sunrise was a wonderful routine that I developed quite easily during two years of unemployment (back during the Housing Recession nearly a decade ago). Over time, I have stepped further and further away from the sunrise aspect, but I do find time in the morning to step outside for a few moments and enjoy some of my morning coffee with the world around me. I am no longer up near the Texas/Oklahoma border. Now I’m a bit more centrally located in Texas near Hillsboro. Everything is different than it was in Gainesville, so I am trying to utilize my morning routine to also acclimate myself with the Spirits of Place that are here.

What about an altar? I don’t have one, so this is a fairly easy one for me to deal with. My altar is typically an outdoor thing. I have a set of stones, which cumulatively weigh around 100 pounds, that I use to put together a stone circle outside. I’ve not done that here for a whole host of reasons, but it will happen in the future at some point. Indoors, my small statue of Gaia, sitting on top of a short bookcase, is probably as close as I get to an altar.

Gratitude. I spend nearly every single day with moments of gratitude. I have a compromised immune system thanks to diabetes and a previous bout with pneumonia, so I am thankful every day that I have mechanisms to lower my contact with other people. I have Shadow in my life, and she has been a solid rock for me in so many ways. I am grateful that I can lean on her for so many things. I have extended family in the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids, Ár nDraíocht Féin, and many, many Witches, Wiccans and Pagans – as well as Christian friends and former co-workers. All of these people enrich my life with their perspectives and their points of view – many of which are very different from my own. I am quite grateful and humbled to have these people in my life. I thank my Gods each and every day for providing me an environment where I can have these people in my life to whatever degree my friends allow me to be.

Finally, the most difficult part of all, taking a critical look at my personal practice. This is not an easy part of the process, nor easy enough to enclose within a paragraph, blog post or even a series of blog posts. It is an intentional examination that will take plenty of effort, thought, and creativity on my part. One place I can start with is my Ovate studies. I have a lot to do, and have slowed down on quite a bit of the material. I think, today is an appropriate one to sit down, examine what I have done, where I am and what is left to do…and make any changes that might be necessary. This particular examination process is the meat of what I believe will happen.

Maybe you don’t feel the need to do something like this. That’s awesome. Maybe you feel an appropriate connection with your Spirituality. Again, uber awesome! Perhaps, you can add that into a point of daily gratitude? I; however, believe there is always a place for self-examination…that moment where you stop along your Path, and examine how things are going. I know that I can use this process now, and this self-quarantine time (or lock-down for others) may prove to be just the right place to do this.

Just a thought….

–T /|\

Moving From One Spiritual Home to Another – Pack Your Bags

I have written a bit about my time before I stumbled across Paganism. My parents, Protestants, wanted the best education for me when I was growing up, so they enrolled me in private schools – particularly Catholic schools. For them, these schools represented the best education with the lowest student/teacher ratio available. The reality was not that the education was any better, merely that the lower ratio provided for more individual attention towards my education. In theory, this meant that such specialized, intensive instruction would help me be a better student. However, I digress, slightly.

Growing up as a Protestant child in a Catholic school environment meant that my daily Spiritual upbringing was far different from that of the Catholic children. I received the same Catholic Spiritual education that the other students did. In time, I learned the pattern of genuflection far better than the Catholic students did. I know the ritual pattern of standing, sitting, and kneeling that the Catholic ritual required. I understood the symbolism in the process of the Eucharist; though I never received it. I was not a Catholic, so it never felt right to me.

Catholicism never felt appropriate to me, so when I graduated high school, I decided to try something different. In Shreveport, Louisiana there are numerous Baptist churches, so I gave this direction a try. I never really took really well to the constant sermonizing over how I was damned to Hell if I did not do things in my everyday life in the manner that the Pastor agreed with. I was berated, before and after church services, for my hair length and the metal/rock tshirts I always wore. I tried a few other churches, thinking that this was specific to this particular pastor. I found that the message was the same, while the beratement varied in intensity. Whenever I brought up the point that what one wore should never be a judgment of who they are – well, let us just say I caught Holy Hell over that.

So why do I bring all of this up? Well, as a Pagan, this is where I came from. My original understanding of Spiritual belief was molded and shaped by my time within the Catholic and Southern Baptist faith. Whether I like it or not, for better or worse, this was where my basis of understanding personal Spirituality had started. As is commonly stated, this was the baggage I brought with me into my first steps of Paganism.

I now realize that my first High Priestess had a handful of de-programming to accomplish with me. A lot of what had been done had to be undone. Plus, it had to be done a little carefully too. Pull too hard on a concept that needed to be removed, and the knee-jerk reaction could be far more negative than what was expected. Changing one’s perspective on something so deeply ingrained is not a quick process. Sometimes ripping the band-aid off causes more harm than good when the scab gets removed with it.

Recently, like within the past decade, folks have started talking about how the younger Pagans may have been Pagans all their lives. I’m fifty-four, turning fifty-five this year, and that is a very distinctive possibility. Even as individuals who have known Paganism all their lives, they will bring some baggage with them into their current understanding of their Spirituality. None of us are immune from abuse by individuals we see as Spiritual Leaders.

I hear and read a lot of people that violently oppose the beliefs that they were brought up in. Heavy anger towards their pasts, absolute venom for those that follow those Paths. I do understand those feelings. I had those feelings at one time. I, too, held on to that warm, inviting anger. But only for so long. After a time, I had to move on…constant and consistent anger is not an emotion I wish to dwell on throughout my life. However, that is what works for me…I can only hope that others find a peacefulness within their own Paganism, and let go of that anger to find another focus. I cannot and will not force that upon anyone, even if it is my desire that they would get there.

In my experience, nearly everyone brings their own baggage from their previous understanding of personal Spirituality. Sometimes, what one knows and understands needs to be taken apart, piece-by-piece, so that they can build a new foundation of understanding. But when such an approach is taken, we need to be careful, move slowly, with deliberate touch. A certain level of respect needs to be taken…at least in my opinion. There is nothing wrong with the inspirational aspects of one’s past. These can be held on to, set to the side, and cherished as milestones later in life. Or these can be completely shattered and broken – never to be seen or re-visited again. This is really up to the individual. My approach is a tender one. Yours…will be up to you.

–T /|\

No Speed Limit

“How long does it take to do the Bardic/Ovate/Druid grade in OBOD (Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids)?” Oh, the number of times I have heard this particular question. Every single time I hear it, I groan inwardly, and attempt to answer it the best that I can.

But I do understand the perspective. Each grade of the OBOD courses can be considered like an academic collegiate class. American collegiate classes are usually taught in a period of time constraints. Usually fifty-minute class periods that can be lecture or lab-work (depending on the topic), three class periods per week; all conducted over a sixteen-week period. Purely measurable concepts that we have acclimated students in American colleges and universities to comprehend, and adjust themselves to.

When one gets the Gwers material, its easy to start trying to place things into time periods. Each set of Gwers material should take a certain number of days, say [y]. With [x] number of Gwers total, that would calculate to [x]*[y] time to finish the material. Add in a few days, say [z], and you have a basic mathematical formula in which to work the Gwers on. [x]*[y]+[z] provides you with a basic aspect of how to work things and when to finish. Right?

Well, the answer is more like – maybe. Some of the Gwers material can throw you for a small loop – it did for me – because it makes you change the way you think and perceive what is presented. Sometimes, that can have you back-tracking your way through the Gwers, thinking you missed something. You wind up working more additional time, say [b], which extends your time. [x]*[y]+[z]+[b] with [b] being an unknown number. Now, instead of focusing on the material, you start worrying about a timeline – and that focus change can really alter your overall approach to what your working through. ::sigh:: And then the frustration starts to set in….

Do yourself a favor. Kick the timeline stuff to the curb. Focus on what you are learning and stop worrying about a clock. Get out of the perception that the Gwers material is like collegiate classwork. This is stuff that is about how you perceive, understand and relate to everything around you. This is about setting you on the Path to becoming the Druid that is inside of you. And that Druid will be different from all the other Druids in OBOD…because you are you. You are not any of those other people.

Now, I am not going to go any further with the OBOD material…because you need to work that all out for yourself. Rest assured, there is no speed limit. I’ve been on this Path for somewhere close to ten years now. Not because I wanted to go that slow with these studies, but because that was the speed that I *needed* to go. Which leads me to the ranty part of all of this. Cover your eyes, if you need to.

I live my life by a calendar. I have to. My mind does not keep up with dates or times or places that well. The calendar system keeps me on focus for each day. But aside from my Peloton rides, there is nothing that survives on a clock. Sure, I have some things blocked off in segments of 15-minute sections, but I use that to make sure that I do not schedule something over something else. Why do we feel that we have to live our lives on a time schedule?

Look, my Gwers studies are important to me. I make time every day to go over what I am learning. Sometimes it takes five minutes, sometimes it can take more than an hour. I am not totally sure what the average time is because I really don’t care. I work in data, mathematical calculations and precision that I find completely ludicrous, at times. I just cannot live my life in that manner. Its not in my personal nature to clock-watch. So, why do we seemingly persist with the concept of trying to figure out how long something as personal as our Spiritual training and education will take?

All the stuff I described about tracking out when I would complete this Gwers or that one? I actually did that stuff. Up until about three months ago. Yeah. Remember, I have been working on my Bardic and Ovate grade studies for nearly a decade at this point. I only recently figured out that this was creating a stumbling block for me. That missing deadlines on that material – artificial deadlines I created for myself – were making me overly anxious about my studies. And that over-anxious feeling was killing my ability to process what I was studying and trying to do. Because I was living to a clock I created myself.

We follow our Spiritual Paths for a variety of reasons. However, for the most part, there is a desire to improve our connection to the world around us, strengthen our senses and perception of the worlds beyond our immediate perception. Why are we setting a time frame on something this important to us? As if all of the knowledge that we are learning will evaporate at the stroke of midnight at some arbitrary point in time. This is why I removed all Gwers studies from my calendar. This is why I focus on the Gwers I am working on, and not worry about how many days I have been doing this particular set of materials. Because this is too important to delegate to a time frame, but rather to place on a position of how I feel in working with the material. Or if you prefer, Quality over Quantity.

I don’t know that this will help anyone in their approach to their own studies on the OBOD Path of Druidry or any other Path. But hopefully, some of this makes sense and gets something to “click” in your mind – for you. Perhaps the calendar method DOES work for you. Perhaps it does bring your focus together. If it does, I think its uber-awesome! Every person is an individual, with their own unique approaches to everything. I am not about to spit on what works for someone else – merely just point out that it doesn’t work for me. But I do know one thing…there’s no speed limit to your own personal Spiritual studies and approach. You know what works for you far better than I will ever know.

As a final note – this is the last blog for this calendar year, 2019. I will resume back on January 2nd with a typical schedule of Tuesday, Thursday, and the weekend. In other words, I’ll try and have a Tuesday, and Thursday blog post up – and then another sometime over the weekend. Maybe Saturday, maybe Sunday….but not both days. 🙂 –T /|\