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 /|\

The Morrigan, Valkyrie and Interpreting Messages – a Discussion of a Personal Approach to Spirituality

Over the weekend, I went looking through my posts over the last year attempting to find a trend in what I was writing. I had hoped to be able to point to something that I could highlight and expand on here. Everything kept pointing to a different point from just a little further back. So, we will take a bit of a backward glance, back into my slight brush with The Morrigan.

To be completely honest, it was not really a brush. Not even a passing glance. I had been having dreams of a female warrior that kept telling me to get ready. Every single time I caught my shrouded glimpse of Her, She was slightly different. Different hair, different pose, different voice, different clothes, different weapon. Many other Pagans that I knew were getting similar types of messages and many were attributed directly to The Morrigan. I could not find a way to pinpoint my own in that manner. I discussed this with a few folks that I knew had been Called by The Morrigan to Her bidding. They agreed that my personal background would definitely be an area that could be of interest to Her needs. The dreams; however, did not have that feel. After a bit of continued searching and gathering my nerve to be demanding of a Goddess, I asked the direct question – are you The Morrigan? It turned out to be one the Valkyrie. And no, I was not being called to the Norse Path. I was being reminded that better health was a necessity in my life going forward.

Well, here I am, at a point far forward from then. A lengthy bout of pneumonia and a diabetic seizure have sapped a lot of my daily strength. I struggle one some days to be anything capable of what I was before. I am certainly feeling a lot more than my fifty-four years of age. As Indiana Jones stated in the movie “The Raiders of the Lost Ark”: “Its not the years, honey. Its the mileage.”

There was certainly a warning that was being provided by those dreams. I was being warned about my need for good health. Most definitely, I would never have been able to coax the idea that I was about to have my health wrecked and turned upside down; that I was going to need to make some truly radical lifestyle changes to my daily living. I had been warned. I spent more time trying to decipher who the messenger was, that I didn’t provide the appropriate context to what I was being told. Would I have been able to fight off the pneumonia that I contracted after my trip to Iceland, had I heeded what was told to me?

Well, hindsight always has perfect vision. I could have dressed far better for the trip. When I noticed a cold being spread among the tour, I could have taken better steps to deal with what was happening. Like I said, perfect vision. My diabetic seizure could have been avoided, had I not been planning russian roulette with my medications trying to figure out which one was triggering my edema in my feet and ankles. Again, perfect vision. Plus, had I been exercising better, I might have been able to solve both of these issues. Again, perfect vision.

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

I hear from a lot of folks that wonder what life is really like working directly with any of the Gods. Well, perplexing messages is one thing. Trying to interpret what you are told is another. But truth be told, in a lot of ways, its like how anyone else lives their life. There is just a little touch extra that you are required to do because you gave your word. Just like anyone else, there are great days when dealing with the God/s that call you, and there are days that are not so great. Why do it? Because I gave my word, and that means something to me. It may not be enough of an answer for someone else, but for me – its the appropriate reasoning.

So where does all that leave me at the moment? Do my Gods help me with getting on my Peleton bike and pedaling? Do my Gods help me to choose better foods for my dietary needs? No, not really. My Gods do; however, encourage me on the days I don’t want to climb on that bike. My Gods can quietly question my lunch and dinner choices, masquerading as the little voices in my head when I am standing in line at some fast food joint. Some might call all of that a mental illness. That I am hearing voices that truly are not there. ::shrug:: I am ok with that kind of criticism, so long as I am not impeded with my own approach to the Gods. You deal with the concept of the Divine in your way. I’ll handle it in my own way.

So, how do you handle the Divine in your life? Maybe you don’t have a God or Goddess asking you to work with them. Perhaps you don’t hear the Gods calling, and have that desire to hear Them too. Be careful what you wish for. 🙂 But even if you don’t have the Gods whispering in your ears, how do you approach the concept of the Divine? How do you work with the Gods when you don’t have Them working with you? Don’t answer that you don’t do anything. You do. You live. Think about how you live your life each and every day. How everything that you do connects with the Divine around you. THAT is how you live a life connected to the Gods, your own Paganism, your community, the Spirits of Place, the Spirits of Ancestor…we all have that divine spark within us. What matters is not how you grow that spark into your fire, but that you do. Don’t discount you because you’re not doing it the same way that I or someone else is. Value what you are, what you will become. You don’t have to have that same special connection to a God or Goddess to be who you are as a Pagan. You only have to have the belief and personal desire to be what you are. Be ok with the criticism that you are not enough of this or that in others’ eyes…so long as they don’t stop you from your own approach, what they say does not matter. And so long as your approach does not harm others. I may not be a Wiccan, but I do strongly believe in that aspect.

I think I’ll continue along this approach in the next blog post as well. Not really a second part….more like a continuation of the thought process. –T /|\

Lead, Follow or Make Your Own Way

Lead, follow or get out of the way.

When I was in the military, my first direct supervisor imprinted this in my mind as the best way to make my way through the United States Air Force. And honestly, it is quite a true statement. Making my way through a regimented society – and the military most definitely is a regimented society – was most easily accomplished by either taking charge, following those in charge, or stepping aside and letting others handle the situation. My biggest problem was dragging this into the civilian world when I left the military.

Occasionally, I hear this same concept handled in regards to dealing with one’s own Spiritual Path. Either step up and take charge of being within a group, step aside and follow the lead of others in a group or just don’t be a part of things. And generally, particularly for people new to Pagan groups, this is taken to mean that they should just quit being a Pagan and find something else.

Been there. And to be brutally honest, it is a moment that just sucks pop rocks. Being given an avenue that offers only a pair of choices, neither of which is palatable or workable, can feel rather limiting. So can being given the similar binary choice of either those two choices or get out. That is a moment that can send anyone down the endless spiral of doubt as to whether being a Pagan was a good choice or not. After all, you find this wonderful Path that provides freedom of thought and choice in a manner you never dreamed would be possible. Excitedly, you find a Pagan group to discuss this with, and you find there’s only these choices provided to you. An absolutely terrible ice-bucket-challenge moment.

My senior year of high school, I had some classes that I had to take because I had not done my freshman or sophomore years in the state of Louisiana. Taking these classes meant that I would be on a class schedule similar to that of the first two year students, placing me on their lunch schedule. When I was at lunch, all the other senior-year students would be in their classes, while I ate lunch. I would be the only senior on that lunch bell. Effectively, I found myself ostracized from my fellow classmates, and being a senior, I was keep at an arm’s distance by the under classmen. It was a very disheartening experience for me, because I found myself on the outside looking in for most of the functions for my class. And as a result my experiences and relationships with the people I graduated high school were thin in nature and strength.

It is not quite the same thing as finding a Pagan group, and realizing you have nothing in common with them – and realizing there are no other Pagans to be found to talk and discuss things with. However, that sense of loneliness and disillusionment can be quite similar.

My way out of the issue in high school was to seek friendship with people outside of my school. I went to a private Catholic all-boys high school, so it was a little easier to find a cadre of friends outside of the school. I found mine via the Friday night showings of Rocky Horror Picture Show at the St. Vincent mall in Shreveport. The friends I made there accepted me for the awkward, semi-shy person that I was. They encouraged me to grow in the things that I enjoyed, even when they didn’t completely agree with it. In this instance, I was exploring my musical tastes by delving into hardcore metal – and while they didn’t really care for my musical tastes, they did discuss some of the merits of bands such as King Diamond, Exodus and Slayer in comparison to some of the musical tastes they had. In essence, we were a band of misfit friends. We were all very different from one another, banded together over our desire to be free to explore.

The same can be said for how I approached my Paganism. I went through the rejection aspect too. But I also found ways to connect with Pagans elsewhere. Through message board systems on local BBSs, I found folks in PODSNet, the Magick SIG, and other places where I could talk about what I believed. Through this, I found people who were willing to listen, respond, and assist me in growing myself into who I became.

To put it a different way, I realized that sometimes the path or deer trod through the forest is not always the best way to travel. Sometimes, you have to tighten up your cloak around you, step off the path and enter the forest proper. Granted, there’s a huge degree of caution that one has to take. You have to be careful of your footsteps so that you don’t slip and fall down a steep embankment. You have to be aware of your surroundings, making sure that you don’t run into any animals that may find you to be an intruder that must be repelled. But the experience of blazing your own trail through the forest can be exhilarating, sobering, and intense.

To be upfront and blunt, I do not recommend making your own way to every single individual that is out there. Sometimes, when you get rejected from a group or when you find a group just does not fit who you are – keep looking. Keep knocking on doors. Keep looking for those others.

If you find yourself on a trail on your own, or you find yourself needing to wander off the trail and finding your own way in your own Spirituality – take that chance. Again, be prepared. It can be a lonely path. You will find yourself doubting what you are doing. You may find that you really do need to go back to the trail – and there is not one thing wrong with that. Blazing your own way through the forest is not for everyone. Don’t feel ashamed or upset over it. Cherish the experience, and set it off to the side. You might be able to utilize that experience in something else. And if you do manage to blaze your own trail (and even if you don’t) – be sure to record your experience of it somewhere. In a journal. In an audio recording. In a video recording. Somewhere. So that you can come back to it. Recorded experiences are valuable tools in future learning. And I honestly wish I had done the journaling that I do now back in the 1980s and 1990s.

In the meantime, it is time to pick up my pack, grab my staff, and continue walking my daily Path. Whether you choose to walk a trail or blaze a path of your own – remember this: leading groups and others is hard work. Following others is hard work as well, as you need to watch, listen, and feel to make sure you need to keep following. Getting out of the way, merely means you are standing still. Nothing wrong that. Just get moving eventually. Make a choice, experience it, embrace it, and eventually stop. Evaluate what’s going on. If its still working, stick with it. If you need to adjust do that. If you need to change, do that as well. It is your Spiritual Path. It is your walk in Life. Only you can choose where your footfalls will wind up.

 

Dive! Dive! Dive!

So, what do I mean by “depth” in Spirituality? That’s a fair question, particularly concerning my little back and forth jaunt in yesterday’s blog post. But before I get going too far – let me preface this a little bit here. Trying to define what is and is not “deep” about one’s spirituality is a rather tough topic to tackle. After all, what I believe to be an approach of depth concerning Spirituality could be considered a rather shallow approach to someone else. Thus, for me to define the concept of “depth” for someone else would be a silly gesture. But I can describe how I approach the concept of “Deep Spirituality” and what it means to me. My approach might work for someone else; or it might not. It might inspire someone to seek a perspective of what “Deep Spirituality” means to them; or it might not. The truth of the matter is that I can only speak for myself.

For me, my turn towards a more in-depth approach to Spirituality began with taking my understanding of polytheism a little deeper than I had. To some degree or extent, I have had a belief in more than one God and/or Goddess for quite some time. I never truly approached the concept beyond that of the dual aspect of God and Goddess; seeing the various masks as psychological aspects. Except that I really didn’t believe that. I could see that each God and each Goddess were separate entities. Just as there are so many stars in the night sky, I could see that aspects of polytheistic belief worked the same way. All I needed to do was explore more; come to understand each aspect individually. Bumping into Coyote was not what I truly expected. From Coyote came Crow. Fliodhas has been a long, ongoing flirtation. And I have no clue with what is coming with the ravens. I assume I will find out soon enough.

Each introduction to these Gods and Goddess (one at this time) are far more intimate than I am willing to reveal on a blog post. But each has brought me to another part of diving deeper – research. And that’s one thing I can truly say for Pagans over Christians – Pagans tend to be a combination of data analysts, librarians, and folk researchers. Always combing for more information, looking through the tea leaves, the bones, and interpreting the cards. Hardly leaving any stone untouched, or any potential path to be examined. In my mundane job, I am asked to find patterns in the habits of students, the grading patterns of instructors, and the ebb/flow of enrollment between three main semesters of an academic year. In a manner of speaking, this is part of diving deeply into the analysis of my college’s student body. The same can be said about expanding and deepening my understanding of such concepts as the Wheel of the Year. All the rituals associated with certain aspects of the year, as well as the ebb/flow of the moon phases have patterns as well. Through continual study, as well as examination of ritual concepts against such aspects as cultural history and folklore; patterns can be discerned, examined and acted upon. But there’s always the reminder in the back of my mind:  I am not trying to recreate something from the past. I am trying to bring pieces of the Past forward into the Present, where I might be able to utilize these in moving with far better grace into the Future.

Its those connections, between myself and everything else, and everything else with everything else that keep me driving forward. As I mentioned in a few recent blogs, conversation with other folks is another aspect of diving deeply for me. I don’t get this as much as I wish I could. But, that will eventually work itself out for me. Of that, I am confidant. Sharing of ideas and concepts with others is a wonderful to expand my point of view, in my opinion. Everyone tends to approach a topic from different angles, and each individual experience adds to what I consider to be the overall consciousness of an issue.

I know that some of what I have written here will strike a vein with some folks. Other folks will shrug and make an observation of the lightness of my approach. Others may scratch their heads and not completely understand. Believe it or not, I grok all three of those positions. I have been there. Each is an experience that I relate to very, very deeply. And at the same time, I know that everyone’s approach will be a little different than my own. Its what makes us all unique.

At the end of it all, I know that a large part of my Spirituality is about continually learning, growing, and evolving. There is no end-game. Only continual experience. Only expanded understanding. I don’t have a mystical hall of roads paved in gold, and a heavenly mansion awaiting me. Only experience. For me, that’s the blanket of the future for me. Always weaving itself. And the best way I have managed to do this? By not trying at all. Ain’t that some kind of paradox? Personally, I don’t think so.

One’s Spiritual Belief Should Never Be a “Numbers” Game

Ever so often, I hear/read fellow Pagans who lament the speed of growth for Paganism over the years. I will be honest, I know very little about the numbers of how Paganism may or may not be growing – and frankly, I wouldn’t get too worked up about it if I knew.

See, I work in statistics on a daily basis. Population growth is one measure that my college utilizes to predict such things as budget, employee cost, and a whole host of other financial positions. I completely grok what the point of that is. The college needs to predict aspects of base-line growth to determine things such as outreach needs, as well as determining larger scale projects that impact bottom-line costs. That stuff is necessary for working a business. I’m not sure its necessary for working with a Spiritual belief system.

Honestly, I am not trying to throw cold water on the idea of Paganism’s wider growth. In fact, I am always happy to see people come to Paganism, when they realize that this is where their Spiritual home is. Alternately, I am also happy when I see people come to Christianity or any other faith when they realize that is where their Spiritual home is. Just as I am happy when I see people accept Atheism or Agnosticism as their Spiritual (or not) home.

For me, its not a “numbers” game. I am not counting up the number of Pagans that are in the bucket I am, nor am I looking for a wild game of Spiritual Red Rover with the Christian faith (or any other faith for that matter). Its not quantity that matters, its quality. Specifically, quality for the adherent of (pick a faith).

IMG_9670Early in my search for a Spiritual home, I wandered to the southern Baptist faith. I was never comfortable with where I was. I didn’t enjoy the yelling and shouting at me. I could not correlate the concept that my soul was going to Hell unless I accepted Jesus ben Joseph as savior. I couldn’t fathom how a “loving” God would do this. But I glossed over those differences between what I believed, and what the over-arching aspect of this faith taught. Why?  Because I wanted to belong with these people. I found people that I thought were friends. I wanted to be a part of the crowd. I wanted to be one of the “numbers”. When I started questioning, I found that I wasn’t accepted because of that. I was drummed out for not “going along.”

Within Paganism, I don’t count myself as part of a number. I am a Pagan. I feel and experience the Gods, Goddesses, and Spirits as individual entities. I walk a Spiritual Path that I have learned to define and develop for myself. My relationship with Fliodhas, Crow, and Coyote are between myself and each of Them. I have fellowship with other people who think very similar to myself, and I count many of them as friends. But its not because I need to be part of a number of people. Its because I have unique relationships with each of them as individuals.

It took me nearly twenty years to understand all of this for myself. So, when I hear people talk about a lack of growth within Paganism, or someone points out a study that marks Paganism at (x) percentage of the population; I smile inside. I remember when hearing those numbers heartened my soul. Now, my Spiritual beliefs fall to a population of one. Me. There are others that are similar. And we have forged friendships from this. But those friendships are based on who those people are as people. Not from what they believe or practice spiritually.

But I do hear the drums in the distance. And I realize that there will come a time where what I believe will be contested by others. But that is a post for another time….

 

 

Looking Forward on My Journey – Part 3

So, I enter into the third and final part of looking at my Spiritual journey…a look at today and the unknown reaches of tomorrow. I have discussed the aspects of why Druidry is the framework I choose to work with. My current daily work leans more towards impromptu ritual, finding the spiritual in the everyday mundane, and trying to find new connections with the Gods, the Spirits of Place and Ancestor. This includes a deeper look into my own DNA and Ancestry that started last year during a visit to “The Celts” exhibit in London during my UK trip at the New Year.

DNA-related family has never been a strong point of mine. I have never felt like I was part of my relations, as my Path in life is vastly different than any of theirs. But during my trip through the Celts exhibit, there was a lot of information relating to the DNA side of things. That started me to wonder why I am drawn so heavily to a Celtic framework, particularly over these last few years. The more I dig into my ancestral roots, the more it makes sense. The more it makes sense, the more I relate to aspects of Celtic mythology that I never paid much attention to previously. I honestly do not see some of the connections, but am starting to see small aspects of it in the way I relate to the environment around me. The result of look at my Ancestry has me finding out where my family comes from, how they might  have believed, and how they may have related to their native land.

There’s Fliodhas. An Irish Goddess of the Forest, that has found Her way into my everyday Life. I do not readily understand the connection, but She takes a prominent role in my daily Life. She is in every moment that I am outdoors, whispering in my ear about the beauty of Life and the connections associated with that – both readily known, and those that are far more subtle. Where that Path is drawing me towards, I have no idea. But I readily walk it, staff in hand.

And finally there’s Druidry. I started my Bardic Grade a few years back. And honestly, I started out on-fire. Just ready to get things done. And then Life happened. Job changes. The amount of money that was available at any given time. Many other personal issues. I faltered. I took steps backwards in my studies. I did a poor job of documenting where I was, what I did to get to that point. I wound up dancing back and forth in place. Last year, after a conversation with several people at Gulf Coast Gathering, I buckled down my resolve to finish, and changed my attitude towards my studies. As a result, I am continuing down the road with what I must learn in the Bardic Grade, and am taking far better notes – not just on what I am learning, but also HOW I am learning it. The idea/hope is that I will be able to take those lessons and apply those going forward into the Ovate Grade, provided I am accepted to move forward.

Lastly, there is my tie to two First Nations trickster Gods. Crow and Coyote. Coyote started my journey, with lessons concerning the degree of seriousness I approached the world around me. I have learned to be a bit looser with the way I approach the world, and to not only find the positive in the world — but also find the humor in situations. Even when things look catastrophically bad. Earlier this month, I purchased a camper. I have no idea how to back it up properly. To get it into my driveway, I drove through my front yard in order to pull it down my driveway in a semi-straight line. That, I could back up. It certainly smacked of being a silly situation….and I can laugh about it. It happened. It was a silly solution, but it was still a solution.

Every day is a new moment for me. I greet the sun’s rise, and try to approach the day with a new motivation, a new vision to accomplishing tasks set before me, and with new eyes so I can try and discover new pathways that I did not notice before. At the end of the day, I say goodnight to the sun, and ask for the promise that He will rise again for tomorrow’s dawn. I set aside my frustrations over the course of the day, and prepare for an evening where I can relax, read, or study. My daily Path is about constantly learning, focusing, relaxing, and then refocusing again – all with the measure that each day is a new start. And each new day allows me to take new, fresh steps on my daily Path…find new connections I had not considered before, and strengthen the connections I already have. My Past through the Catholic faith, the southern Baptist faith, and within Wicca have helped bring me here. Whether the lessons I learned were negative, positive, or neutral does not matter. There was something to be gleaned from those times within my life. Paganism is the stream that brought me to where I am now, opened my eyes and mind to the perspective of individual Gods and Goddesses, and has renewed my faith in that perspective each and every day. I am on a pathway of Druidry, as a Polytheist Pagan. That’s who I am. But I can never discount or demean where I have come from. All of that is a part of me as well.

IMG_9670

Living Your Truth Out Loud

In a recent post, Nimue asked: “What’s your truth, and what do you need to do to speak it into everything you say, and carry it into everything you do, and what happens if we do that?” Before I continue on, let me encourage you to go read Nimue’s very thought-provoking post. I’ll wait patiently here at the keyboard.

What Nimue is discussing in her post is a very powerful process. It requires a lot of inward soul-searching, in my opinion, as well as looking to see where your flashlight (or torchlight, if you prefer) is pointed. Which reminds me of a quote from Babylon 5 that I believe helps showcase a part of my own truth.

If I take a lamp and shine toward the wall, a bright spot will appear on the wall. The lamp is our search for truth, for understanding. Too often we assume the light on the wall is God, but the light is not the goal of the search, it is the result of the search. The more intense the search, the brighter the light on the wall. The brighter the light on the wall, the greater the revelation upon seeing it. Similarly, someone who does not search, who does not bring a lantern with him, sees nothing. What we perceive as God is the by-product of our search for God. It may simply be an appreciation of the light, pure and unblemished, not understanding that it comes from us. Sometimes, we stand in front of the light and assume we are the center of the universe — God looks astonishingly like we do! — or we turn to look at our shadow and assume all is darkness. If we allow ourselves to get in the way, we defeat the purpose — which is to use the light of our search to illuminate the wall in all its beauty and all it flaws, and in so doing, better understand the world around us. –G’kar

For me, in trying to speak my own personal truth, its the very end of this moment that expresses what my own truth is all about. See, I’m a polytheist. I believe all the Gods and Goddesses are real. I believe the Spirits of Place and Ancestor are also real. I believe that all of Them are individual entities, which we can work with, in our own individual manners. I believe that each of our relationships with these entities is individual and unique. And those unique relationships are the walls where I shine my flashlight, so that I can examine, inspect, and marvel at the uniqueness of what I am experiencing. But that’s not all.

My Truth

A large part of who I am is about experiencing things. Walks in the woods. Long drives through the vast countryside of the United States. Working with my programming and databases. Sitting in the backyard next to my pool. Standing out by stone circle, in another part of the backyard, to watch the sun rise. Watching the growth of the cattle that I pass every day on my way to work. Standing on the back porch to feel the warm Summer rain, while listening to the mighty boom of nearby lightning. Conversations with friends and strangers on a wide variety of subjects. The warm, enveloping hug of friends that I saw yesterday, and the strong, enthusiastic hugs of friends and distant relatives I haven’t seen in quite some time. I tend to refer to all of that, as “my Druidry” – but that is the same thing as saying that it is a large part of “my Truth.”

Not All Personal Truths Are Equal

Perhaps, a few of you are reading the above statement and shaking your head. “That’s definitely not my truth,” you might be saying to yourself. And that is definitely all right. Much like the relationship between one individual and the Gods is one thing, another individual’s relationship to the Gods may be something completely different – even to the same Gods. Your own Truth may not be about experiencing things. Your own Truth might be about something way different. There’s nothing wrong with that, unless you are proclaiming that your Truth is the Truth that everyone else must have as well. Then, we start down the road to the unbending rod of dogma. And while that may be your Truth, for me, a rigid dogma is a definite “no” for me.

Speaking Truth

For me, this is a very simple thing. Speaking Truth everyday is adding my experiences to my daily Path. This means taking time away from my keyboard at work, so I can step down to the gazebo at the duck pond, and just watch everything happening around me. The students coming and going, the sounds of their many discussions. Watching the clouds rolling in from the west, as the jet stream pushes them forward. When I do encounter students in my daily work, I try to be encouraging. I listen to them as they talk, ask leading questions to get them to puzzle out their problems for themselves. I step into their experiences. And every once in a while, they will ask how I manage to understand all of that, and I get the chance to discuss my own concept of dealing with experiences. Whether they adapt some of that or not, that is for them to decide.

In my nightly devotions to my two Gods and single Goddess, I try to add small commentary about my experiences for the day. Just as a way of sharing my day with Them. Plus, it serves as a reminder to me that these experiences have helped me to grow, and understand the world around me, and all the connections that are a part of that and myself.

So, What Happens?

This is where your mileage will vary greatly from my own. Because what happens is nearly as unique as the connection between us and the Gods. Or the connections between us and other people. Or our experiences to various moments in time. But, one thing I have found – when we start speaking our Truth, when we start consciously understanding our own personal Truths…it bleeds out into everything we do. We begin to commit actions that mirror how we believe. For me, this was learning to live my life much slower, more deliberately. To not be rushing from one location or task to another – unless it was merited by a deadline or a specific individual requesting data. Slowing life down in a deliberate manner, allowed me to embrace the connections I could readily see, and discover newer ones that were not readily available.

Slowing life down has also allowed me to embrace a different mantra. For this one, I have to lean to Mickey Hart of Dead & Company. At the very end of the Grateful Dead 50th anniversary celebration, he made the following statement:

The feeling we have here — remember it, take it home and do some good with it. I’ll leave you with this: Please, be kind. –Mickey Hart

…and for me, that encompasses an even greater Truth. If we live our own Truth, we will find that it all leads to one simple mantra (at least I hope it will): be kind to others. I cannot say for certain what your Truth is or is not, but I certainly hope that in the end, when speaking it to others, when living it in yourself, that it all boils down to one thing: being kind to others.

If you have found anything I have written here intriguing, or you are intrigued with what Nimue has posted….please, take the time to explore your own Truth. Write it down. Examine it. Write about that examination. Put your Truth in motion. Don’t let it be a hidden part of you. Live it out loud.

 

Crow Doesn’t Care About My MBA

All throughout my (ahem) professional career, I have seen a literally alphabet soup thrown at me. MBA, DBA, MCSA, MCSE, MCP, PhDE, and even more – all usually appended to the end of a signature block in an Email. In my Spiritual life, I have seen similar notations. 3rd Degree this, Certified instructor of that, yadda-yadda-yadda. Now, its easy to be dismissive of this stuff. After all, not everyone is financially capable of chasing these little scraps of alphabet – all of which have meaning. These credentials speak of who these people are, and what they (supposedly) know. But I do know individuals who have not played the Alphabet Chase game, and are as intelligent (and sometimes more so) as the individuals gathering the titles. So, do are these non-titled individuals an anomaly, or are they indicators of the poor quality of results from the institutions that bestow these alphabetized, encrypted descriptors?

Let’s open this with a bit of honest. I have credentials after my name as well. BSIT, MMIS, MBA. All this means is that I hold a (BSIT) Bachelors of Science in Information Technology, a (MMIS) Masters in Management of Information Systems, and a (MBA) Masters of Business Administration. Here in the outside world, the MBA tends to carry more weight. More “oooh!” factor. Its the one degree I care the least about, and the one that has the least amount of meaning towards what I do for a living. It was a door prize to a failed attempt at a Doctorate degree. Essentially, I amassed a pile of credits trying to get to the Doctorate degree, and when the pressure finally forced me to capitulate, I was offered two more Masters level classes to attain my MBA. Sure. Why not? I did quite a bit of work…I should get something for my effort, right? Most people are in awe when they hear I have an MBA. The concentration is in Information Security. Think about that for a minute. I have a Masters of Business Administration in Information Security. If that doesn’t sound silly to you…it should. But if I had said nothing more than I had an MBA, there’s a greater potential of you being in awe. But I honestly did not achieve my degrees to place people in awe of my credentials. I wanted the knowledge that supposedly backs up those credentials. And in all honesty, I could have (and probably have) gleaned most of that knowledge through my workplace experience.

See, credentials from colleges, universities and such state that you have knowledge of the theory of how to do things. The same goes for programs such as the training within OBOD, ADF, or any other spiritual organization. And knowledge is a good thing to have…but without using that knowledge to grow your experience, its just knowledge. Which is why I am not impressed with Alphabet Soup credentials. Knowing things is good. Using what you know to get things done, is even better. And sometimes, you didn’t need to go through an entire study program or college degree to get the knowledge that you needed to make things go.

Earlier this year, I attended Pantheacon – my first ever Spirituality convention. I honestly had nu clue what to expect. What I experienced was something somewhere between a giant meet-and-greet, an Anime convention, and a professional organization’s convention where training gets dispensed. Its the latter part of this that I want to address. The panels were far and away, the most intriguing moments for me. Certainly, other parts of the convention were great: being startled by the Krampus Walk and the total amount of noise that they made coming down the hall to the lobby; meeting Shauna Aura Knight and spending time talking with her face-to-face; getting to watch the lovely silliness of Kristopher Hughes; and two lovely morning breakfasts with my roomie for the event, John Beckett, and fellow OBOD member Frank Martinez. All of that made for a great time, but it was the panels were I was able to listen to how other people approached the themed topic, and write notes of how I could incorporate some of their approaches into my own.

For a couple of year running, my local area had Pagan Pride Days events. The last two years, we have had Pagan Unity events – which have had a similar feel and vibe. Each of these events have had panel discussions available to the folks, as well as rituals done by various local groups. I have been party to more than one super awesome conversation at these events, and have been able to take away something from each one that I have incorporated into my own daily life. So, Spiritual conventions are not the only place where such information can be gathered, and such discussions can be had. And social media platforms allow us to branch out in further with blogs, such as this one, and podcasts, and online radio shows, and Facebook groups, and Google Hangouts, and Twitter feeds, and Instagram accounts, and Email – oh my!

But the key isn’t just reading, and listening. Its about having the conversations through comments. I am envious of John Beckett’s blog over on Patheos – its located here, if you want to check it out. His posts gather all kinds of comments which turn into some really awesome conversations. Quite a bit of the time, I feel out of my depth with the people that post there, but I have dipped my toe into the conversations from time to time. But whether these folks realize it or not, I learn something from their comments. Yes, John posts excellent stuff, but many times, his comment threads yield very rich, enticing, and complex conversations that take deer trails in so many different directions from his original post. We also have books. And music. And rich podcasts such as “The Celtic Myth Podshow” which literally bring the myths and legends to life right before our very ears!

Literally, we have the equivalence of college material at our fingertips, where our Spirituality is concerned. We can learn any direction and style we want. We can expand on that knowledge with conversations – physical and electronic. We can petition the writers of the blog posts, the creators of the podcasts, the authors of the blog posts for more clarification on topics. We can meet with our fellow travelers on our various Paths both face-to-face, and in online environments. In the end, its not about how much knowledge we glean, or what credential we can place after our name – its about how we take that knowledge, the methods we have discussed with others – its about taking that and putting it to use.

For me, as a polytheist, its how I utilize that knowledge to move forward in how I honor my Three, and how I handle the work and tasks provided to me by Them. Because, to be honest, Crow doesn’t care that I have an MBA. Crow doesn’t care that my MBA was a door prize to a failed run at a Doctorate degree. Crow cares about how I utilize that knowledge. Its not about the credentials, its not about the degrees, its not about the certifications, and to a point its not about the knowledge. Its about how I use that knowledge.

 

Its Not a Degree Program…Its Far Deeper Than That

We have all heard the statement made….

I’m going to be….

Nine Hells, I have made that statement a ton in my life. Especially when I was much, much younger. Now at [mumble-mumble] years of age, I understand a bit more of the underpinnings to statements like that. To be able to be….(waving one hand in the air)…whatever….there’s a lot of hard work that needs to be handled before you get to that title, position…(waving hand again)…whatever. Let’s take an example…

Quite a few years ago, I ordered my Bardic Grade lessons from the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids. I was confident that I could handle the self-paced timing of the lessons. I had a Bachelor’s degree and two Master’s degrees…this couldn’t be any more difficult than that, right? Yea, famous last words.

Make no bones about it, the Path to becoming a Druid through these lessons (or any set of lessons for that matter) is not one of academic pursuit. It is definitely not the same thing as getting [x] number of credit hours in various subjects at your local college or university. And approaching it from that mindset was a major stumbling block for me. This is not an academic pursuit. It is a spiritual one. And there is a huge difference between the two.

Truly, there is some academic pursuit involved in wanting to accomplish the knowledge and understanding of what it means to be a Druid grade member in the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids. After all, you are going to be touching base with history, religious theory, mythology, and writing. Lots of writing. All of that can be found in the pursuit of an academic degree. But there’s more to this than academia. There’s finding a framework to work your own beliefs upon. Whether you are working a monotheistic, polytheistic, or even a non-theistic belief structure to the teachings that you are learning, there’s plenty of areas for deeper thought and contemplation on spirituality, personal philosophy, and even exploring one’s own moral compass. And that does not even approach the exploration of meditation, and ritual concepts.

In the end, this is not the same thing as working towards a degree that proclaims to the world the base of knowledge that you have attained within a collegiate structure. This is about enriching your own personal spirituality, finding your connectedness in the world around you, and becoming part of something far larger than you. You are growing yourself, not working towards a degree that allows you to place some initials after your name.

Back when I was in the Air Force, one of my supervisors used to tell me that in order to achieve level-5 (a status level that allows you to work unsupervised in the career field I was in), I had to put in the “sweat equity” to achieve it. In other words, I had to do the work to get the certification. I had to prove my knowledge base. I had to roll up my sleeves and get into the material.

A few years back, I was frustrated at several points along my studies in the Bardic work.  Because I had not been putting the *right* sweat equity into my studies. I was looking at my studies as a way to achieve a title. I was approaching my studies from an approach of an academic student trying to achieve a grade in order to obtain credits that would be spent towards earning a degree. This is not a degree. It is a study that is meant to provide a means for me to understand my Spiritual Path better.

Kokopelli's Stone Circle at the New HouseThis morning, I woke up at 2am. I walked out into the backyard, and stood by my Stone Circle in my overgrown backyard (it needs mowing desperately). I looked up at the stars, and just stared. What I have just written here, occurred to me during those five minutes outside. I had brought a glass of water out with me to drink, which I poured at the northernmost stone in my circle. I chose my phrasing carefully. I stepped back onto my Bardic Grade again, with a fresh perspective. I am not on this Path to achieve a degree or a title. I am studying this Path to understand better. I am on this Path to learn more of myself. I am on this Path to honor the Gods, the Goddesses, my Ancestors, and myself. I am on this Path to connect in ways I had only dreamed of before.

Sometimes…it takes a shift of one’s mindset to realize where one’s foot slipped off the Path. And where one’s leg went knee deep into the bog. One thing is for sure…there’s work to be done. Nothing is going to be given to me. I have to want to learn on this Path….and I do. Any title or accolade may be nice, but is certainly not necessary. But the sweat equity most definitely will be….

 

Taking a Step Forward – the Pull of Gods, Goddesses, and Place…

I have always been drawn to certain things – certain ideas – certain places. Oddly enough, many of these things are not related. Crow, Kokopelli, Borrum, Artemis…all Gods and Goddesses that have approached me in one form or another. Glastonbury Tor, Externsteine, Mesa Verde, the northern Rocky Mountains and Tai Chan — each a location, nothing like any of the others.

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

Taken altogether, they seem strange placed together – and yet they all make up a part of my own personal Paganism to one extent or another. Each features prominently on my bookshelf – except for Artemis, which is a new approach for me as of a few weeks ago – and I have actually designed more then one vacation around a few as well. But what is the common thread?

That really is a tough one to bring about for me. Each is very different, unique in their own right within my mind. A friend of mine suggested that the common thread was me, which I nearly dismissed immediately. Why would someone like me be the central focus? After all, I am just myself – nobody extraordinary. However, the point has some merit, particularly if I remove the idea of individual celebrity and focus instead on each particular topical point providing a needed focus on what makes me who I am.

Which brings me back to something I have been thinking about for quite some time — as a solitary Pagan, how do I go about doing all of this? Where do I get a mentor or do I even need a mentor? If no mentor, where do I find people walking along a similar Path to what I am studying at that moment? Would they be willing to advise me? This is a particular concern when it comes to First Nations information here in the United States. It can be a very touchy moment when trying to query a First Nations Shaman about their own practices.

In the end though – I realize what pitfalls may arise in my study of these varying perspectives, and working with different Gods and Goddesses. But the draw is there – its not anything I can place my finger on — and its not really anything that seems to be “cool” — let’s face it, Kokopelli is a very, very strange God to deal with in the first place. I have to work towards each one, a step at a time. Listen, watch, learn…and where I can find someone to discuss these things with, there’s that avenue as well. And despite some of the potential pitfalls, I have to wander these Paths. I am not completely sure of “why” — though the pitfalls that I incur may actually be the “why” — but I’ll never know, so long as I stand at the crossroads of each Path and contemplate the whys and why-nots.

Sometimes, you just have to take a step forward…

Music, for me, is Essential

Like I noted in the last blog post, music is a big part of my life. Well, today and the 9th are a pair of interesting days for me. Today, August 1st, is the birthday of the late-Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead. The 9th is the day that he passed away, back in 1995. This morning, in my Facebook feed, I found a post from Mickey Hart – the awesome drummer, and all-around genius – in my Facebook feed. The title of the post is “Dear Jerry” and points out that Jerry was a catalyst for a lot of people discovering how music can touch nearly every aspect of their lives. The previous day, Mickey had posted a quote from Jerry that I re-shared to my wall:

You need music, I don’t know why. It’s probably one of those Joe Campbell questions, why we need ritual. We need magic, and bliss, and power, myth, and celebration and religion in our lives, and music is a good way to encapsulate a lot of it.  –Jerry Garcia

This is one of those quotes that you stumble across, and realize the potency of what is being said, and for me – how much it encapsulates what makes my life “GO”. Even when I am at work, I am playing music. Currently, I have my iTunes on a full-mix rotation. Its been playing as I am typing this. This morning I have heard Tom Petty, The Grateful Dead, Jewel, Fiona Davidson, Spiral Dance, and .38 Special. I play this type of rotation when I am in no particular musical mood. Usually, I have a particular artist in mind, and I focus on them. But music is always there.

jazzWhen I walk, I typically have a large number of songs from a single artist stuffed on to my iPhone. Its the background music that I am wanting to listen to in order to help focus my mind on a single thought. Yes, I meditate when I walk. Its also one of the reasons I need to stop walking in my neighborhood, since this is a heavily urbanized area, and there’s always traffic around. Its fairly easy to come close to being hit by a car, even when you are not distracted by anything else.

Music permeates nearly every moment of my day. There’s always something on. Plus, I am looking into taking guitar lessons as well, so I can get back into playing music with my more musically inclined friends. That’s the first time I have had a serious desire to play music since March 20th in 1982 when I found out about the death of Randy Rhoads from the previous day. That’s the day I set my bass guitar down. And to be perfectly honest, I won’t be the greatest guitar player ever. In fact, I’ll likely be “ok” at my peak. But its not about being the absolute best, its about being able to share that music with my friends.

When you listen to a certain song, do you get the chills and thrills up and down your spine when you hear it?  When you know that this is the song that defines a specific moment in time – or that this song will always remind you of these musicians? Or that this song expresses this moment so perfectly? In my opinion, that’s part of what Jerry means in his quote about “magic and bliss” — where a certain song can literally define that moment for you forever. And when you hear that song, you are immediately transported to those feelings. I have a metric ton of these memories.

I know that there are folks who may not understand or agree on the importance of music. To be honest, that’s perfectly fine. This is something that definitely works for me. And something that is a very deep part of what and who I am. So, as Wall of Voodoo is reminding me about “Mexican Radio” – I’ll go ahead and close this post. Here’s to hoping that you’re having an excellent day, morning, evening, night – whatever.  🙂  /|\

What Works Doesn’t Always Work….

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

Dreams, meditations, and music are the centerpieces of my spiritual experiences. I have talked at length about each one of these at one point or another in the blog. I have also talked about how structured ritual, spellwork, and magickal work play far lesser roles in my daily path. And at one point or another, I have been roundly criticized for placing these into far lesser roles within my own spiritual experience. Perhaps that’s simply because I dare to stick my head above the crowd and discuss that within the blog here. To be honest, I am not sure where or why that comes into play. And to be honest, speculating does no good either. But let’s be certain about one thing – I am no authority for anyone else but myself. I know what works for me in my own daily walk, I know what works for me in communing with the Gods I encounter on my Path, and I know that it works for me. I also know that some aspects of it MAY work for others. And most of what I talk about will certainly not work for another element of folks. And all of that is perfectly fine.

I have never been one for rules. How many times does the nut have to be turned to hold the engine housing on for a B-52? I’m not completely sure, but there were USAF regulations governing such concepts. I always figured that if the power tool I had couldn’t turn the damn nut, it was tight. However, even with my disdain for the rules, I know that there are rules you can bend, rules you can break, and rules you have to obey completely. The same holds true for computer programming. The same holds true for Life in general – and that includes individual Spirituality. But I also know that what rules can bend or break, and which rules cannot is different for each person. We ARE individuals, after all.

While I find it mildly interesting that some folks would feel some kind of need to reiterate to me what rules they feel are unmovable, I also note that I tend to thank these folks for their statements – and then continue on with my own Path. It may be improvisational for a large part of it — but it works for me. And I hold no patents or theories that my way is the only way.  Well, not for anyone else — just for me.