Thinking About: Seasons Will Pass You By

Well, we all managed to make it to the end of another calendar year. Much like the previous year, this year has had its share of challenges. While those difficulties have been rough and tumble, we’ve all learned from each struggle and managed to continue. Certainly, we will see more struggles going into the future. More challenges that place us on the edge. But we will also have happy moments. We will have triumphs that equal – and surpass – the energy and emotions of our tragedies. That’s all a part of the constant cycle of life. Many will see this as an example of the metaphor for “circling the drain.” I see it more as a long trail up the mountain. As we climb higher, the climb gets more difficult in places. However, if we stop every so often, and turn around, we can enjoy the gorgeous view – and reflect on how much we have persevered to get to this point. As well as look up to the mountain’s pinnacle and realize there’s more to climb. We all climb the mountain for different reasons. Each of those reasons are personal and varied. Each are just as valid as the next person’s.

I have been taking some views towards the future of our collective Paganism over the past few posts. Today’s post will mark the end of that grouping of posts. I have had a lot of fun writing these posts. I’m not trying to predict the future of our collective Paganism. I’m not arrogant enough to believe that I have any measure of the pulse of what is to come. I can see the trends of the past, and attempt to predict what might happen. But as I have noted before, the troublesome data set remains the human beings. Human beings can defy logical reasoning and make choices that are antithetical to a reasoned trend. Human beings remain the unpredictable factor to a coming future.

Our collective Paganism will most certainly continue on into what is certainly an unpredictable future. What shape it takes, what ritual aspects it continues to observe…all of that is to be determined by the younger Pagans, as I have noted before. This could all look exactly the same or so radically different that those of us within Paganism barely recognize what it has become. Or it would be somewhere in-between. My bet is for somewhere in-between. But its not for me to decide that future. My chance for growing Paganism came during the late 1980s and early 1990s – and followed through to where we are today. I had a hand in that, as did all the Pagans of my generation. The coming future is not ours to design, move forward, and expand upon. That belongs to our younger Pagans, some of whom are my age. That’s right. I am fifty-(mumble-mumble). I’ve been on my Pagan Path since 1986. I was twenty when I took my first steps. Later that year, I turned twenty-one. But there are Pagans just taking their first steps on their own Pagan Path that are my age. Some even older. Their “new” eyes will help initially set the future in motion.

A future built on the stage we currently stand on. A stage built on the past of other Pagans. A stage built on the memories of Pagans who had a grand vision of the future that probably never approached their dreamed of future. That’s because the future was built by others who expanded on those visions with their own desires of what Paganism should become. Those also had a grand vision of what Paganism might become. Their younger generation steered that vision as it applied to their younger dreams. That cycle continues to this day and on into the future.

When I was in my younger years of Paganism, there were dreams of Pagan temples honoring the Gods standing side-by-side on city blocks with churches and in suburban sprawl like the current churches that litter our neighborhoods. There were dreams of an acceptance of Paganism and exultation of the acceptance of this wider belief system in the public world-wide. Neither of those dreams have been realized to any full extent. I sincerely doubt that these ever will come to fruition. While I still see seeds of this “need for wider acceptance”, the coming of Pagan beliefs manifested within an individual rather than a group has quietly extinguished much of that flame. For the most part, these solo Pagans (commonly referred to as “Solitaires” – a phrasing I personally eschew) are not trying to develop a Paganism that has buildings, temples, groves, and such readily available on every corner. Seemingly, they do not wish to create spaces with neo-signs standing out front, advertising the existence of such locations. Most solo Pagans I have encountered are quite content in seeing the entire world as their temple. From skyscrapers in the vast concrete jungles to the wide-open prairie lands to anywhere else. The truest temple we have is the world around us, according to this perspective. Honestly, it’s a perspective that I do ascribe to, so there is a strong degree of bias in what I write here.

With a current that skews far stronger towards that of the solo Pagan than to the Pagan group perspective, is this a future that I see rising? A Paganism where the group flavor diminishes? Where the dreams of established sanctuaries, temples, and groups do not come to fruition? I’d be a complete fool to say yes. Not only is the future impossible to predict, but established locations have already happened. Take, as a singular example, Circle Sanctuary. They exist. They thrive. If you are looking for a blueprint to work from – there it is. As with any blueprint, its model can be altered accordingly. What’s necessary for that model to thrive? Well, I’m not one-hundred percent sure, but I would imagine that it comes down to a core group of people that whole-heartedly believe in that vision. People willing to place their entire soul into the creation, maintenance, and growth of such an idea. Thus, I would never rule such an aspect out of the future. There definitely are those people out there. And despite what an analytical trend might say, they most certainly ARE a part of the future. That’s not hard to believe in. That’s not hard to see. What is difficult to ascertain is the size of their significance in that future. They will exist, regardless. They currently exist. The truer debate comes to the degree of their existence.

A few have asked what references and sources I have to back up my assertions. Aside from personal observance – none. I’m not some theological nerd who studies every aspect of theological perspective. I can barely talk the talk of a theologian. I have no studies in my background – other than the studies of Catholic theology and theory that were hammered into my head during my high school years. But to be fair, I’m not claiming to be “right” here. I’m looking at everything for a prospective of discussion. I’m not telling you that this concept of the future that I am writing is a “definite” thing. Merely that this is what I am observing and relating in these blog posts. I claim no stranglehold on the truth. I do not have the truth tied up and laying at my feet, eviscerated for the whole world to perform their own autopsies upon. I’m just me. One simple Polytheist Pagan Druid, just trying to make my way through life the best that I can. Just trying to draw up a touch of discussion on the idea of the future, even if that happens out of my eyesight and hearing. Nothing more.

To quote Yes’ “Close to the Edge”:

Close to the edge, down by the river
Down at the end, round by the corner
Seasons will pass you by,
Now that it’s all over and done,
Called to the seed, right to the sun
Now that you find, now that you’re whole
Seasons will pass you by,
I get up, I get down
I get up, I get down
I get up, I get down
I get up

Yes, “Close to the Edge”

Indeed, the seasons do pass us by. We observe them every year through the cycle of the Wheel of the Year. We use our rituals to mark the passing of time. We learn from the Past; we observe where we are in the Present. We don’t always talk about the Future, until the Veil thins or the physical calendar of the Year prepares to change (as I am doing here with these blog posts). Perhaps, we need to be more open about our Future throughout the Year? We cannot completely control our collective Future, but we can influence it to one degree or another. Do we want or need public temples? Is our collective Paganism going to move completely towards a solo perspective? Is the aspect of groups rising or waning? Or are we currently in the downside or upside of a cultural cycle within Paganism itself? Is this dynamic power-struggle between solo Pagans and Group-oriented Pagans a waxing/waning shift that continually occurs from our collective Past into our Present, and further on into our Future? Well, the “seasons will pass us by” …but I think these questions will wax and wane into the future…. only the continual slow roll of Time will truly tell. I, for one, am excited by the future that our younger generation of Pagans will bring forward. Likely, I will not be alive in this incarnation to see this – but I am excited by their dynamic energy, and their innovative manner of thinking. I hope I get to see just a glimpse of it all…just a glimmer. One day….

–Tommy /|\

Photo by Simon Berger on Pexels.com

Thinking About: Two Quid Into the Pot For Pagan Future

I sit here drinking coffee and eating muffins on a quiet, and dark Yule morning. The house is quiet. I’m the only one awake. The little furry children are dozing in their respective hiding places. I am spending the morning with the lightning riffs of Yngwie J. Malmsteen being pushed through the speakers of my headphones, a distinct memory from the late 1980s.

I have spent the past few blog posts looking at what I perceive to be some of the future of our collective Paganism. Much of that has been spent comparing the group versus solo rift that has existed within Paganism for as long as I have been on this path – and has existed long before my entry-point within our collective History. I touched a bit on the two extreme edges of Pagan thought in Reconstructionist perspective and Eclecticism, as well as some of the controversy in gender inclusivity, and the ongoing debate on what constitutes a Pagan. Simply put, the wider Pagan community has its share of issues to deal with going into the future. All of which, dare I note, will play great roles in shaping the Paganism of the future. A Paganism that I more than realize I will never recognize from the Paganism I am a part of today. But its also a Paganism that is not mine to shape beyond my time here.

It is somewhat strange to realize that all that I write here, all that I do within my community, my mere existence here – all of that will have only a small wrinkle going into the future. The Paganism that I am part of right now is vastly different from the Paganism I started with. The younger Pagans of the 1990s have helped to shape what I consider to be a “freer”, more diverse Paganism with their efforts to explore, alter, and expand thought. Those changes have re-ignited the debate over eclectic thought versus what is considered traditional Paganism today. Not that long ago, these traditionalist Pagans were considered the eclectic ones versus what was traditional Paganism then. I would posit that the same cycle will continue going into the future. Adding to that circle will be those new Pagans that seek to practice Paganism as “it was.” Another cycle that will carry forward into our collective future.

I have always been horrible at forecasting the future. Tarot? Nice distraction for me, but being able to predict anything with any degree of certainty? Well, pardon the pun, that’s not in the cards for me. My mundane life is in data analytics. Even within this industry, there is a level of prognostication that is expected. As if, the people who comprise this small arena of data reporting are modern-day fortune-tellers. Those of us in this part of the wider corporate industry are not. We analyze trends and predict the marketplace for commercial sales based on past histories, current trends, and other social markers. Frequently, those predictions are wrong. Because consumer habits are unpredictable. The same holds true for predicting where a religious belief system will go. Because people can make choices and choose not to continue with a trend. And that choice can be a sudden one-hundred-and-eighty degree turn that happens at any given moment.

The Pew Research Center has a trend analysis that depicts the overall percentage of people in the United States has been continually decreasing throughout the last decade or so. Where are these people going? Into a bucket entitled “religiously unaffiliated.” These folks aren’t leaving their faith, they seem to be leaving the constructs designed around their faith. Instead of having preachers, priests, and what-not as the middleman of their faith, they are choosing to approach divinity on their own. Sound familiar? We’ve already seen that happen here within our collective Paganism. The rise of solo, eclectic Pagans that are taking what they have learned (well, not all of them) in groups, and striking out on their own. A direction that I applaud, but only because a large part of what I do falls into this category. However, that doesn’t make it the “right move” for everyone.

But this group versus solo perspective will have its backlash. A move away from fundamentalist perspectives always contains a backlash from the fundamentalist perspective. Another symptom we’ve already seen in our Pagan communities. Not just recently, but even back in the late 1970s. Pagans who went it alone being presented as “crazy,” “unhinged,” or “not sound with the basics of [x tradition]’s practices.” Looking through history, you will find all kinds of backlash when people choose to make changes to their own fundamental principles of belief – choosing to remove the power structures and hierarchies that they perceive to hold them back from finding their own expression of worship, adoration, or ritual to the Gods they approach.

Again, I point out that most of my own personal belief falls into this realm. But, in no way am I advocating that the aspects of group work are bad or stunt the necessary growth of the members that are reaching out for new expressions of their beliefs through whatever means. Group work has always been one of the very best ways to learn the necessities to ritual, spell work and so many other aspects of Paganism. I will be one of the first to step forward and note that learning the basics is a necessary aspect to making ANY Spiritual perspective work for you. I know…that sounds weird coming from a solo, eclectic Pagan who does things his own way. But everything I do in my Paganism has a foundation that goes back to the basics. Everything I add to my Paganism starts with the basics of what I am adding becoming part of that foundation.

As I have said, our collective Paganism continues to grow and change. The future of Paganism doesn’t belong to an old fart like me. It belongs to the younger Pagans. The twenty-somethings. My goal isn’t to change Paganism. I’ve already had my hand in doing that. My goal is to help the younger Pagans with the concepts of what is fundamental now, provided they wish to listen. Not force them to see this or that as concrete principles of Paganism. To be honest, everything about Paganism can be up for grabs in the process of change. Remember, the future of Paganism is in their hands.

Have you ever thought about a Paganism where everyone meets online? Its already here – thanks to COVID. Many face-to-face rituals and events have abandoned that face-to-face format in favor of meeting online. Has that changed paganism? Has that altered our connections with our Gods? Has it changed the relevance of today’s paganism going forward? All good questions. None of the answers for these are truly going to come from all of us older Pagans. We will have input, but remember – sooner or later, we all pass beyond the Veil. The future generations will grapple with these choices, bending and shaping our Paganism into their own. Good or bad, depending on the opinion of others.

Do I hope that the future of Paganism leaves a Paganism that I recognize, a Paganism that remains the same as it is now? Certainly, I do. That’s my own selfishness stepping forward to claim that desire. The reality will be different. That may be the only certainty that I can continue to grasp as an immutable truth. Based solely on the fact that they are not me, and I am not them. Of course, I do have to step back and point to my shitty track record of predicting the future. 😊 After all, I’m not perfect, and I have no stranglehold on the truth or the future. Just two quid into the pot….

–Tommy /|\

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Howling Into the Wind: What is a Pagan in the Future?

Sitting here looking at where else to peek into the Pagan corner for something to peel back for the future…I keep coming back to the group versus solo perspective. Wrapped up in all of that is an aspect I am reticent to even approach, but it’s a part of how our collective Paganism grows into tomorrow, as well as today: the perspective of “authentic” Paganism. How can you tell “authentic” Paganism from the “fake” stuff? Is there some kind of 3-d sticker affixed to it like Major League Baseball uses for baseballs used in actual play? How do we deal with this going forward into a future that already feels so nebulous and shaky?

To be perfectly frank, I don’t really have an answer. After all, there is some aspect of my own personal Paganism and Druidry that others would not find to be “authentic”. I’m not coursing backwards into history to find where and how our Pagan and Druid ancestors did their rituals. I’m not trying to locate scholarly fields of work to slap an “authentic” sticker on what I do. Instead, I’m doing what feels “correct” for me. I’m not worried about finding a common thread back to the past. I have that with my Spirits of Ancestor. Nor am I worried over those that would believe my approach to be “inauthentic” to theirs. I know my Path works for me. I also know that my approach is unlikely to work for others, which is the sole reason I do not denigrate how others approach their Paganism. Whatever it is, it likely does not work for me, but that doesn’t mean I have to treat it as inferior. Because it’s not.

I catch more than my fair of shit for taking this hands-off approach to Spiritual Beliefs. I should denounce this, showcase the incorrect aspect of this, proclaim the wrongness of these others. Look, I’ll be honest here, unless you are engaging in human sacrifice, enlisting people (especially children) for sex in exchange for the “secrets” of the occult, or mutilating/killing animals…I’m likely to move on from saying much about your approach. The rest of that stuff that I mentioned? Well, I’m more likely to contact the local authorities and let them sort things out. But I will state my opposition to those actions. So, there is a line that I draw in the sand. But I’m not here to denounce things – rather, I am here to discuss how beliefs that are different from our own move forward into the future as well.

Or do they? I have often wondered if some of the Pagan community was going to come together and form something akin to the Council of Nicea. Where what is or isn’t Pagan would be decided. This is Pagan, but that is not. I remember the ludicrous “Are You Pagan Enough?” diatribe that went on quite a few years back. I always wondered who had died made folks into a Pagan Pope that could decree what could and couldn’t be included under the wide, and very diverse umbrella of Paganism? Now, looking into a near future of Paganism, I can see where the sweet, delicious aroma fed that hunger. Being able to decide what could or could not be included within a single vision of what makes a Pagan…well, Pagan.

Yet, we have these inclusion arguments all the time. At Pantheacon, the year before I attended for my first time, there was an aspect that kicked off the TERF argument/discussion that has been going on since. If an individual identifies as a female but was born as a male – should they be allowed into a ceremony or ritual for Women’s Mysteries? And vice versa for a ritual or ceremony for Men’s Mysteries? I don’t have an answer for this. My gut feeling is that if you identify as a female – you attend stuff for Women’s Mysteries. However, not my ceremony – not my call. That’s like me saying that a Wiccan Priestess should be allowed into a grade initiation for my Druid Order. While I am a member of the Order, that’s not my ceremony – its not my call. Of course, this is moving off the topic slightly, so let’s push this back on-track a bit more.

Going forward, into our near future, we are going to see changes. This is what happens when the “new” Pagans begin to grow and feel the length of their legs. They begin to walk with more confidence in what they are doing. They begin to reach for something new, different, inviting to their senses. Things begin to evolve as the older generations shuffle off this mortal coil and cease to be unspoken obstacles to those changes. That cycle will repat going into the future as well, as the generations grow, and new generations come to take their place.

As I have said before, I have been on my Pagan Path for thirty-plus years. I’ve seen my share of new Pagans. Some stay on their Path, some alter their Path slightly, and some leave it altogether, confidant that this was not the place for them. All of that is natural. This that stick around will eventually come to this same point – being an Elder in the Pagan community. I hate the perspective of being an Elder, because I see so much more growing on my own personal Path. I may have been here for so long, but I still have that “shiny, new” feeling about Paganism as a whole. Regardless, I know I am looked at with the lens that places the nameplate right underneath me in the vision of younger Pagans: “Elder.” Just because of the years. In a manner of speaking, it also places me in the sphere of feeling like a parent to some degree. Where I sit and wonder if the Pagans that are stepping into those roles of leadership that open – do they have what it takes to continue to grow this movement that we have?

This, I believe is the crux of the question of looking into the future. Will all this still be here? I daresay that for many of us older Pagans that have traversed this Path for so long, it’s a thought that’s crossed our minds before. If you read the previous blog posts, you know – maybe in a subtle way – that my answer is “yes”, and “no.” Paganism is not going to wither and die. Some of the Paths, that could be true. But Paganism is a wide open, extremely diverse grouping of belief systems. Some might call it a catch-all grouping. Everything that doesn’t fit the “Big Five” falls here. That could be true. I view Paganism as being a set of belief systems that revere Nature as divine and spiritual. Worthy of respect and worship. For me, that’s the binding agent. Nature. An awe for the mystery of all that is Nature, in its many guises, aspects, faces, and senses. That reverence will be here long after my bones have dried, become dust, and scattered elsewhere on this planet. That reverence of Nature will not the same as it is now. The Paganism of the future, rooted in that growing Nature, will utilize the Paganism of today as its root core. Rituals, myths, legends, and even deeper resonance with Nature will be built up from the foundation that will come from our Paganism today. As Damh the Bard sings:

The Ancients opened the door,
We’re the same as ever before,
We will hear you forevermore,
Evermore.
So by peace and love we stand,
Heart to heart and hand in hand,
On the shoulders of giants we stand.

Damh the Bard, “On the Shoulders of Giants”

…going into that future, we will be the shoulders that they stand upon. We will be the raising of the foundation, ever higher.

Is there a future for all elements of Paganism, I ask? “Of course there is, you git!” is the likely response I am to get. Its true, there is a future there. We don’t need a litmus test to allow entry into the future of Paganism. All the arguments on inclusion for this, that, those others – those will move forward into the future as well. Consider them as individual Rubik’s cubes. Currently unsolved, but one day – a few smart Pagans of the future will get together and find the way to resolve each one. I have faith that will happen. Because I have faith that all of us that identify as Pagans will always find a way to make things work. We’ve always managed to make do with our Rubik’s Cube solutions. Even if we just peel the stickers off and put them back on in the form of the solution. 😉

Photo by Marko Blazevic on Pexels.com

This post was written with Keith Jarrett‘s “The Köln Concert” album as my background music.

Rolling the Crystal Ball Out to the Fire – Pagan Future Anyone??

I’m writing the Tuesday blog early. Its Monday night, its dark outside…just wanting to set the mood a touch here. 😊 I love dark nights out by a fire, just sitting and talking. That’s sort of the direction I want to take this post. As I said in the previous post, I plan on utilizing the rest of the calendar year’s schedule for posting to reflect on the future of Paganism. At least the future as I see it through my lens. Please remember, I am not trying to stir controversy with all of this. Rather, my goal is to stir conversation. From conversation we can derive so much more than we can from argument and debate. Conversation stimulates creativity, and creativity allows one to add to conceptual perceptions of matters that have yet to come forward.

I’ve got a job waiting for my graduation
Fifty thou a year’ll buy a lot of beer
Things are going great, and they’re only getting better
I’m doing alright, getting good grades
The future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades
I gotta wear shades

Timbuk 3, “The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades”

Not sure if people remember this song. I always enjoyed it. Cheesy lyrics, but still fun enough to make you grin and remember those first steps into the wider world. Speaking of which…and turning back to the point of the Pagan future…think back, do you remember when you started down your Pagan Path? Well, I do. Let me get our fire started first.

Ever seen a fire start with a big boom like that? Nearly burned my eyebrows. LOL I probably need to use a lot less lighter fluid, eh? Anyways, that first step into Paganism. I remember mine. I was learning from the folks that had learned from the Wiccans in the Dallas/Fort Worth area back in the 1970s. They had learned from others who had learned from others in the 1960s…blah, blah, blah. This group begat that group which begat those groups. Apparently it was a lot of begats. Well, joking aside, lineage was a big thing. Where you learned from and who was important. Being part of a group was a big thing. Being on your own…usually provided you with a (sometimes) undeserved reputation of being shaky and shady. After my first year within a group, my initiation came with a notation that I was the future of the information I was learning. I would assist in passing the information on to future members. The implication was that there would be no changes to what I was learning. It came from here which came from there which got it from this other place.

Then the late 1980s hit. Pagans everywhere were finding books on the Barnes and Nobles bookshelves (about the most comparable example to today’s online Amazon), which taught the reader who to be an [x] Pagan. With the advent of the books came the perspective of comparing materials in every direction. What was different than we had been taught? Why this and not that? Experimentation, exchange of materials happened, new directions were found – brand new Pathways were beginning to be created. For your traditionalist, your reconstructionist, the purists…this was sacrilege. But we are talking a generation of new Pagans that came from my generation. I’m a kid of the late-1970s and mid-1980s. Rebellion was our calling-card. Our parents were outraged over the idea of Satanists among their midst. We flocked to Slayer, Mercyful Fate, Metallica, and Exodus for musical influences. We bought LaVey’s “Satanic Bible” believing we were touching something truly evil – which it was, but from a marketing standpoint rather a content context. We ate up the ridiculous concept of backward masking on albums, believing that messages were recorded backwards to fill our minds with “secret” messages and commands that were derived directly from Satan. Why? Because we wanted to be “different” than our parents. We rebelled against the corporate image projected on to the business world by IBM with its starched white-collar shirt with dress pants, and black dress shoes. We embraced the technological revolution, whose icons looked like we wanted to – wild hair, t-shirts, jeans, and tennis shoes. We were looking for ways to do things our own way.

Even today, experimentation is frowned upon. Deviation from the script is considered as impolite, rude, even sacrilegious. But, just like the technological revolution sought to revolutionize the way people worked – many of the younger Pagans looked for ways to revolutionize the Paganism they were taught. Not to change Paganism, but to EVOLVE it. The technological revolution provided employees with the power of a mainframe system (which typically took up an entire floor) in a box with its own monitor, mouse and keyboard that could be set on your desk. A room half the footprint of a mainframe could contain the power of dozens of mainframes, all at desks that employees could manipulate things as they needed to, without the “High Priests of technology” (the individuals operating the mainframe in a locked, enclosed area) being the middleman. As these new Pagans had grown up in the churches that their parents forced them to, they had been living under the concept of that same middleman, in the form of the Preacher. These new pagans in the 1980s wanted to take something that “sort of” worked for them and transform it into something new. Something that spoke directly to them. And they were lambasted for their efforts. I watched all that happen. I watched Pagans walk away from their covens, away from their groups – and reach out on their own. Essentially becoming the rejected solo practitioners that they had been warned about. Because groups had the lineage – and that was the SOLE truth.

Now, before I get tackled, bagged, and quartered for slamming on groups…I’m actually not. I am however, presenting an aspect of historical notation to the growth of Paganism…utilizing a SINGLE aspect of the huge growth of Solitary exploration that has happened all the way through to today. The groups that utilized lineage as the example of their Path – they are still here in Paganism. And still a big part of all of what we are, collectively, as Pagans. Solo Pagans and Pagan groups have existed side-by-side – and continue to do so. Just as white lighters, chaos magicians, fluffy bunnies, and Pagans of nearly every descriptive that you can devise have also established their own basis. Not everyone agrees with everyone else. Some are seen in a negative light by others – but regardless, they are all here. Me? I have a foot in both camps. Most of my Paganism and Druidry is done on my own. Yet, I am still a member of the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids (OBOD). A few times a year (when COVID is not closing the doors on gatherings of people), I spend time with my fellow OBOD folks in a group celebration. Solo doesn’t mean being alone.

Let me throw another twig on the fire. Maybe I can find one with a lot of leaves, so we can get some smoke going. Sort of like what a lot of folks might think of what I’ve written so far. Which is fine. I’m not trying to appeal to everyone’s sensibilities, merely to get a conversation started. So, the future of Paganism? Groups or solo? I’ve watched the growth of the solo Pagan over the years. But groups haven’t been stagnant either. There’s been growth there as well. New Paths have started, flourished, and stepped into bigger roles within the wider community. Will our Pagan future include only a solo Path or fall back to the Groups and lineage perspective? I can’t say for sure. Predicting a Paganism that resembles a no-rules Woodstock fest utilizing a Pagan past that is much closer in scope to a 1950s coffee-house gathering…is a touch impossible. The data points are just not there to foster any kind of predictive analysis. And you know what? I’m supremely elated over that. I look at these new generation of Pagans, and I see their creativity, their excitement of exploring a Spirituality that is wide open to them…and I envy them. They are stepping into a new world that is ready to unfold for them in ways that I could never fathom. My way of doing my Paganism, my Druidry, my own Spiritual practice – all of that might fade into the dark of history after I pass away with no one to carry that aspect forward. I’m ok with that. My voice was here. It will carry on into the ages of tomorrow in whatever form. But I am elated that their voices are here – that they will carry on. That future generations will find these voices and be inspired to their own ends. What does Paganism look like in the future? Fuck if I know. But its going to something stupendous, beautiful, and amazing – provided we let it grow. Provided we remain respectful of perspectives that are different from our own. Because that’s the carrier-wave that everything else is built upon. That’s our electronic ark to the future.

Let’s face a touch of reality. Paganism today is not the same as the Paganism of yesteryear. Paganism of tomorrow will be very, very different to the Paganism of today. Our collective Spirituality evolves on a steady pace. Some of it picks up the pieces of today’s social mores, the hot political takes on the world around us, and melds all that into a newer, fresher Pagan perspective. One that appeals to the younger generations that are among us. When I was a younger Pagan, the huge majority had stepped away from a religious perspective of our parents…typically as a measure of flying them the finger as we stepped out to live our own lives. Today’s younger Pagan may also be doing that, but there are newer pagans who have lived with Paganism all their lives and were afforded the opportunity to decide their own Spiritual perspective. They likely won’t have the Revolutionary’s heart within them. Nor the measure of defiance that Pagans of my generation did. As Bob Dylan once lamented, “the times they are a-changing.”

I sincerely doubt that Paganism’s future will be anything close to what imagine. But that future is not mine. That future is for the younger generation to decide. My generation built much of today’s Paganism. Yes, this chaotic, seemingly uneven, deeply messy Paganism that we currently have. For those looking for a structured, orderly version of Paganism – where everything would be bagged, tagged, and set neatly to the side. Well, sorry. That can happen in your corner, but Paganism is much wider, far more, open, far freer, far wilder, and more feral than many may have imagined it to be. Its certainly far beyond what I ever dreamed of back when I started down this path. Frightening in some respects. In comprehensible in others. But damn it’s a gorgeous sight to behold. Paganism may seem like a hot mess to some, but it’s the freedom to reach for the beyond of our nearby environments that lets that shapely beauty out of its jumpsuit for me. Many parts of Paganism are not my cup of tea, but I am thrilled that they exist.

I truly do envy the youth within Paganism. Where Paganism is today may feel chaotic to others, but to me I see the wide-open portal to the stars…the opening to something that has the possibility to be even more. What will they create with all this available to them? I can’t even imagine. I wish and hope I am around long enough to just dip my toe into the depths of what they start. I feel its going to be incredible.

Just one Pagan’s opinion….

–Tommy /|\

Thinking About: Advancing Technology With Advancing Spirituality – Looking at the Future

For the rest of the calendar year, I’ll be writing posts that are aimed at looking at the future within our collective Spirituality that we call “Paganism.” All of these posts will be my own personal perspective, but is aimed towards creating a conversation looking towards the future. Mine is only one of so many different perspectives. No matter who you are – some Big Name Pagan, a simply blog writer, an author, a member of some coven or grove, a solo Practitioner…your voice is just as much a part of our future as anyone else’s and carries equal weight – no matter what we may individually think. This…is just mine…and the start of my voice in that much wider conversation. You don’t even have to join in with what you think, but I do ask that you take some time to turn the idea over for yourself and examine it.

It’s a cold morning. Winter is making another push into Tejas. I’m hoping that it’s a push for the colder weather to stay. After all, it never feels Winter when its nearly 70F, no matter if the calendar says “December” or “February”. ::smile:: My hard drive of music, with the help of MusicBee, has me starting my day with Cross Canadian Ragweed. Its just my massive music collection set to “AutoDJ”. 😊

As is my usual option, I spend my morning with headphones on, reading what little news I care to, blogs, and other things. I ran across an odd story that piqued my interest though. The headline blurted out: “’15 Minutes to Save the World: A Terrifying VR Journey Into the Nuclear Bunker.” Apparently, according to the article’s author, this is a Virtual Simulator to showcase the terrible responsibility of the President of the United States during a showdown against the Russians, who have utilized a “first-strike” option. The entire perspective, which is the author’s attempt at working the simulation, is an attempt by the simulator’s creator to instill some fear into the VR operator over the pressure that one chooses. The simulation provides three options, along with the estimations of associated losses. Or, if you want to, you can choose to utilize some options to achieve a different goal (which is not explained in any detail). You can even choose to do nothing. The author describes his feelings and emotional state at having to make what is certainly a Gods-awful choice, no matter what choice is made.

I never had the awesome responsibility of having to make such a choice when I served. I was a lower-level Non-Commissioned Officer (enlisted) at the height of my eight years in the Air Force. I was; however, part of the Command-and-Control Communications group. I was in charge of (sometimes) getting such commands as nuclear launch and strike out to the military units that held the keys to those weapons. Desert Shield/Storm, I was part of a team that was responsible for getting air strike missions, weather conditions, tanker aircraft location missions for planes to refuel, and many other pieces of information to the fighter squadrons tasked with a multitude of missions. I was easily nothing more important than a single cog in the mechanics of a well-trained and rehearsed war machine.

The realities and emotional fear were no different than what the author describes. We had training scenarios that put our unit on a war footing very quickly. We rehearsed our part of the mission – getting orders identified, quantified, authenticated by our upper command, and delivered down the chain of authority for nuclear mission launch and other related activities – just like it was the real thing. Many times, we were never informed that our training scenario was just an exercise. That was done to make us work exactly like we should during a “real-world” scenario. We trained on scenarios of what to do if our unit’s chain-of-command was compromised by issues such as hospitalizations, untimely absences of key personnel, and one time we even dealt with a scenario of the bunker being directly attacked and breached. The point of these exercise was to make sure that our actions for the appropriate movement of information was consistent with security protocols that we needed to maintain. We were also trained to think on our feet to deal with equipment failure, including commercial services that some of our equipment relied on. We trained so that dealing with things was rote memory. We could do our jobs without having our fears and emotions overwhelm our capability to do what has always been an unthinkable and wholly unwanted scenario.

Its been a super long time since I was in the Air Force. I’m sure a lot of the things that I remember have changed. I know the equipment has been upgraded and updated. Technology continues to change regardless of what else happens. That envelope of cutting-edge technology continues to progress. Information technology equipment that I used in the field is long outdated and useless in today’s digital environment. My equipment was the last-stand for analog technology in an approaching digital world for the 1990s.

Great back story to the VR simulator and all that, right? But this is a Pagan blog. Aimed at Pagan concepts within personal spirituality. What does all this have to do with all of that? Well, not much – really. But it does showcase one point that even I don’t pay much attention to. Progression of belief systems.

I can tell you right now, spiritual beliefs have changed a lot since the mid -1980s. Rituals have changed a lot since that time. Perspectives of what spiritual beliefs encompass have changed greatly as well. Many of the concepts and tenants that I remember have changed. For instance, attitudes concerning trans-gendered folks have entered into the spiritual environments that we have. This wasn’t something that had even been approached back in the 1980s. In fact, during the 1980s, the biggest fight seemed to be centered on Mens v. Womens Spirituality. Was it right to mix the genders? Was it right to separate them? What should be done out about those that identified beyond being straight? Back then, those seemed to be the driving questions of the day concerning spirituality. Now, everything is more complicated, more difficult to determine, and crosses into other areas of territory. What about skin color? What about the genetic line of the individual versus the conceptualized perception of the Spiritual path in question? Much like Technology has changed, so has our Spirituality.

Personally, I could give a flying fuck about any of that. If a person wants to be a part of a Spiritual path, my opinion is that they should be allowed to explore it. I certain don’t hold the Gods to be crusty, old, unbending Beings that would deny someone the chance to explore a Spiritual perspective based on some societal norm from the 1300s. The again, I’d be trying to feed you a shit sandwich if I didn’t add that I also don’t know the minds of the Gods. This is all speculation on my part. But it is the direction that I would take, and prefer to believe the Gods to be open to change, just as we are all open to the changes that come down in Technology, whether we completely agree with those changes or even like them.

The creator of the Virtual Reality simulation is trying to open the minds of folks as to the awesome responsibility of a nuclear launch and the emotional aspects tied to it. Yet, one thing is not taking into account: each individual that steps into the simulation has a different perspective on how to handle the moment. As the article denotes, many people made different choices. Some chose actions that made things worse. Some choose actions that didn’t. Some decided to not act. There’s no denotation of other critical aspects, such as the emotional state of the individual at the time before the simulation begins. Trust me, while the President does go through exercises to handle the responsibility, he/she/they is not provided the training of pushing emotions aside to do their jobs, like the military personnel who will carry out that choice have been. It’s a difficult job, certainly.

What about us folks dealing with choices in our Spirituality? As I noted, our issues are wider, far more diverse, and equally divisive within our wider Community. I know my feelings and perspectives when it comes to exclusion of individuals based on their biological perspectives at birth versus where they are today. I have no barriers for people based on stuff like that. Born as a male but now identify somewhere else? What you feel to be now is what you are. I know that doesn’t always wash in terms of Mens mysteries versus Womens mysteries, but I’m not one to split the “sexes” either. All of that is difficult terrain to cover because we are all individuals. We all have our own perspectives to cover. We can disagree on issues like this. We can even go into exclusionary Spirituality. But unlike the VR Simulation, we’re not given the information of what such choices will cause. The only way we know the aftermath is to select a choice and move forward. And often, we human beings make choices hastily. We worry about the consequences when we arrive. Because we don’t have a virtual reality simulation to show us the potential consequences of what those choices will cause.

One last thought. The Virtual Reality Simulator that the author crows about in the article. It certainly does show you the causes of your choices. It provides you with estimations of the deaths caused. But a simulator is a programmed set of instructions. I’ve enough programming under my belt to know that a simulation is a set of instructions that show a suggested outcome chosen by the individual programming the machine. An individual with their own set of biases and opinions on how things will happen. Your opponent in the Simulation is a set of ones and zeroes designed to follow a flow-chart of decisions based on a small set of perspectives. Biased perspectives…of the programmer. For the Spirituality outline that I am drawing parallels from, there are many biased and perspectives. None of them a set of choices and outcomes. All of them based on individuals that may be reacting from an environment of personal crisis of their moment. Their choices today might be different yesterday or tomorrow base don the day they are having. It might even be different from hour to hour, minute to minute. How much an effect each of those differences will have – cannot be measured by anyone other than the individual. I learned that from so many nuclear release drills that I was exposed to. Every individual reacts differently from moment to moment. It’s the sole reason that I don’t place too much faith in any programmed simulation or even in the results of any practiced drill. I can only place faith in the moment, with its own programmed flaws.

#JustSayin’

–Tommy /|\

Photo by Tomas Ryant on Pexels.com

Thinking About: Past, Present or Future…Please Do This.

Well, the holiday season has finally descended on this madness we call “daily Life.” Thanksgiving, Yule and the calendar New Year are all lined up in a row, promising too much time with those family members that we don’t get along with. There’s not much for me to worry about over all of this. My DNA family live at least a single day’s worth of hard driving from here – so there would need to be some serious planning that happens for something like this to come together, and there’s been no serious planning. My nearest DNA relative is my sister down in Baton Rouge…and we barely acknowledge that the other exists. So, the holiday season should prove to be fairly quiet and easy to manage for me.

This past weekend, on the drive back from Missouri, I managed to pick up a few shows on Satellite Radio from National Public Radio (NPR for those who prefer acronyms). In one of the programs, there was a segment where musicians of today were asked what they would want to tell musicians of the future, say twenty-five years into the future. I found a lot of the discussion to be quite interesting and fascinating, prompting me to wonder a bit about what I would want to tell Pagans twenty-five years into the future. I’ve covered this before, sort of. I believe that the only thing I could really relate to the Pagans of the future is to “be true to who you are in everything that you do.”

Looking back over the past, I wish it was a point that was stated with a bit more volume than it was back in the late 1980s. But as I am reminded by so many Science Fiction stories and movies and books: you can’t change the Past without making the Present wildly different. All I can do is lament the fact that it took me nearly a third of my Pagan path to realize how important this point would be to my own Spirituality.

Say a Pagan from the Future popped into my office through whatever technology that they had and wanted to sit down for a cuppa and a talk. After I got finished freaking out over the fact that someone just popped into my office without coming through the front door, would I impart that little bit of wisdom on them? Maybe. Probably not. I would love to be helpful but providing my little bit of knowledge may change the outcome of the world at that point. However, perhaps if I imparted that bit of wisdom, the world could be made better from that point on? Would I? It’s a rather heavy decision to make, one that I believe would have some answers within the mysterious world of quantum physics (maybe).

I know, I know. I can feel so many of you rolling your eyes over the scenario and concept. Besides, I’m no heavy thinker or major influencer. Why would anyone want to listen to me? Yet, here I am typing all of this out. Why? Well, I believe that every single person influences the world around them, regardless if they even realize it.

I live by a handful of thoughts. (1) In whatever you do, be kind to everyone. You never know how much you can change their day. (2) In everything that you do, be true to yourself. (3) No matter what happens, the designated hitter in baseball is evil and should only remain in the American League. (4) John F. Kennedy Jr. is indeed dead. (5) President Biden won the election fair and square. Ok, maybe only the first two are me being completely serious, although I do firmly believe in number five.

If I had to impart “wisdom” on the future generations of Pagans, it would be the first two points in the previous paragraph. Even in the face of persecution that Pagans suffer every single day at the hands of right-wing Christian extremists. Because if we continue the cycle of being harmful towards one another over our beliefs, then the denigration, anger, and such will never stop. In fact, I believe it will continue to escalate. Just tossing my two quid into the pot. In fact, I’ll call at this point. 😊

So, let’s say that I am approached by the future, as I have laid it out previously. Would I impart my “knowledge” on to the future? Well, yes I would. (Ignore the contradiction with what I’ve already said) My points on being kind and being true…these are not going to hurt anyone else if imparted to the future. Perhaps, these two points could enhance their future by providing them the framework for something I see disappearing from our modern society on both sides of the political spectrum: compassion. If I am supposedly important enough for our future Pagan to utilize the awesome technology to rip through the fabric of the space/time continuum – than I should absolve myself of the responsibility to protect the space/time continuum and impart these words to that time traveling space hippie. Besides, what harm could I really do, right? At worst, a short talk with me might get our future Pagan to realize we don’t really need dishes. Empty plastic butter-tubs make good bowls. Seriously. 😊

Coming back from my silly, sarcastic perspective – the best I can impart to anyone, present or future, is to be kind to everyone. And while doing that, be true to who you are. Don’t be something you’re not. Don’t follow the trends unless those trends speak to who you are. Walk your Path. On your terms. Your footsteps are your own. And if you’re from the future…just tell me that y’all ditched that “new” Coke formula. My generation was dead wrong about that shit.

–Tommy /|\

Thinking About: Being Here Versus Tomorrow

The “spooky” season of the Wheel is right around the corner. Some would argue that its already here. Me? I’m not much of a horror film fan, so the “spooky” side of Samhain doesn’t appeal very much to me. (Sorry to disappoint those of you that really get into that stuff) This time of year is usually the start of the deep dive that I take into my personal Spirituality. Where I eventually surface, I never know. So, I have no idea where things are going to eventually take me.

Many times, in the past, this time of year has brought about questions of the future. Where are things going? What will Paganism look like in the near term? What about the far-flung future? What contribution will I have made towards the future? How will I have shaped the future? How am I shaping the present?

All of this presents an aspect of heady thought, much of which can be reduced to a single perspective: am I really THAT important? I tend to shrug off the idea that I have any true importance in the wider Pagan community. I have no desire or motivation to be considered as a motivational aspect of Pagans, or even Druids. I’m not trying to shape Druidry or Paganism into something that I believe it should become. I’m not arrogant enough to believe that I am someone who has the answers for anyone, other than myself. My Path is aimed towards trying to do better by myself by trying to be the best individual that I can be.

I write the blog. Its never been for me or even about me. Instead, my (hopeful) focus has been to provide advice to those that read it. Whether that be now or sometime into the recesses of the future. In a manner of speaking, I’m trying to be a narrative history of what Paganism, and Druidry mean to me. Perhaps, someone will find some synchrony in what I write with their own Path. That what I leave behind will turn on that light in their own thinking, providing them with an easier direction in adding to their own lives.

I write my journals. Each day, I spend a few moments at the end to surmise what’s happened, as well as what’s on my mind. In many moments of synchrony, what I write in the blog tends to mirror what I wrote in my journal. After all, what’s on my mind is what’s on my mind. 😊 Should my journals somehow survive beyond…maybe someone gets something out of those as well. Perhaps a future ancestor. Who knows?

Perhaps, what I consider to be the biggest imprint that I can leave behind for the future is the interactions that I have with others. Whatever my lasting imprint will be with those people, will likely be the legacy I am remembered for. For some folks, there will be a happiness that is my imprint. For others, my imprint will be one of disappointment or anger. Look, I’m not fooling myself into thinking that everything I’ve ever done is “good”, “happy” shit. I’m no choirboy. However, considering this time of COVID, with enforced solitude, those lasting impressions are not done face-to-face as much. Rather its managed through video conference, and more so through written communication. But its there, for better or worse.

Am I THAT important? Do the things I do help to shape and reshape Paganism within this day and age? I would posit that the answer is yes. Not just for me, but for everyone out there. Everyone supplies the change and reshaping of Paganism as we continue to move forward into our future. You might think that you don’t, but you do. We all do. Because we’re living it every single day with everything that you do.

Paganism, for better or worse, is moving into a realm where the individual is becoming more and more important. As an individual that does not work in groups, this move only feels “natural” to me. For those that are wedded to groups being the be-all, end-all – it can be construed as a disaster in their minds. The reality is probably closer to being cyclical, in the end. Somewhere in the Past, the practice of Paganism (or whatever alternative descriptive there may have been for it) was more likely done in solitude and secret. I have no proof for that statement, only supposition on my part. However, looking at where things are in today’s modern Paganism, I would posit that this move to a more grounded, individual practice comes from that potential cycle.

The reality is that this potential cyclical change doesn’t matter. What matters if what you believe, what’s in your heart, how you connect to environment around you. What you call it, doesn’t matter. How you do it, doesn’t matter. What matters is that you do it.

Yes, I do wonder about the future of our collective modern Paganism. I do wonder what all of this will look like in ten or twenty years. I do wonder what effect I will have had on that future Paganism. No matter how small or insignificant. What would it be? What shape will it have taken? What I realize is that it really doesn’t matter what effect I will have had on the future Paganism. What matters is how I effect my own approach on Paganism within myself. The shape that my effect will take is in the shape of myself. A shape that may physically disappear over time, but it will have been here. It will have provided the energy that I put into my practice. It will be supplied by my own motivation and drive. Because I am here.

Paganism, in whatever form it has been, currently is, or will eventually come to be – happens because of each of us. Each new Pagan, the passing of our Elders and those before their time, our explorations into new experiences, new environments…all of that continually shapes and reshapes our collective Paganism. Wiccans, Druids, Witches, Heathens, Love-and-Light Pagans, and so many more make up the multi-colored quilt that we are. We keep adding patches and pieces, creating something unique and cherished. That’s what the future will be…what we make of it. What we add to it.

–Tommy /|\

Photo by Noelle Otto on Pexels.com

The Future: One Perspective

Druidry. This has been a part of my daily life for quite some time now. Just a little over a decade, if my reckoning is correct. Although, the true timing of when I started down this path does not really matter to me. Being on this Path is what I spend my focus on. For those wanting to know how Druidry got to this point, that’s an easy thing. Ronald Hutton has two excellent books on the topic: “Druids: A History” (which seems to be out of print) and “Blood and Mistletoe: The History of the Druids in Britain“. There are many other authors who have written about the history of Druids, so the road here is very well paved from an historical sense. Plus, each of the Druid orders out there have their own histories from their perspectives as well. However, the one question that keeps cropping up from a lot of the people that read this blog and the folks I am associated with on Facebook is where the future lies for Druidry and to a much wider extent for modern-day Paganism.

The short answer is – I really don’t know. Looking at things from a growth perspective, I have seen studies that proclaim a deep growth for Druidry and Paganism – and other studies that show a much more shallow pattern of growth. I am not going to debate one perspective over the other. Rather, I will point out that whatever perspective you believe, there is a pattern of growth and that point alone is important. Growth means that there are more people becoming interested in what an alternative Spirituality has to offer over the common-place, main-stream forms of Spirituality that are readily available and known within society, as a whole.

Growth does imply that numbers potentially getting bigger. We do; however, also see people leaving Druidry and/or Paganism as well. Some are disenchanted with what they have perceived to be nothing different than the dynamic power structures built by more common main-stream Paths. Plus, our Elders are passing beyond the Veil as well, which can provide a negative balance to the overall growth equation as well. There is no census of Druids or Pagans out there that is available to substantiate any of this. I am merely speculating as to the normal patterns associated with human curiosity, disenchantment with previously held ideals, feelings of disenfranchisement, and the natural life-span of these human shells we wear. I would still hold that there is a progression of growth that is still there, even though I do not have any numbers to back my feeling. If that one point ruins everything else I am about to say, so be it. However, all of this is my opinion, and mine alone. As I am fond of hash-tagging: #JustSayin’

I have read and heard a lot of thoughts towards a future for Druidry and Paganism, both short-term and far-flung. From grand visions of temples and sacred shrines dotting the landscape of the world to Druidry (and other forms of alternative Spirituality) being openly considered as being on equal footing with the Big Five. No, I don’t mean Slayer, Anthrax, Metallica and Megadeth; besides those bands were known as the Big Four, unless you consider Exodus to be a part of that which would make them the Big Five. What I mean is Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism. To some, being placed on equal footing within societal understanding would be an ultimate step forward into the future for Druidry and Paganism. Fair enough. Both are interesting perspectives to see happen going forward, but I see those as much bigger steps than what the future may hold.

Now, I am no fortune-teller nor do I have special dispensation towards what happens in the future. I am a horrible prognosticator. Just check out how badly I have done in picking Fantasy Sports teams, and you will understand what I mean. I add this to continually point out that all of this is my own opinion. Others may share all or parts of what I envision, but the number of people that agree with me is not going to make any of this happen or not. Furthermore, some of this is going to dive slightly into politics, which I said in an earlier Facebook status post that I was not going to write about. Before you start lighting the torches, understand that the ripples from the political pebbles that got tossed into the pond will effect all kinds of things in seemingly unrelated areas. So without further quantification, here I go….

One Side of the Flipped Coin

While most of us in the world enjoy a greater degree of freedom where our beliefs are concerned, political events certainly have a degree of foreboding in the clouds. Like it or not, all aspects of our freedoms lay in the balance of what happens over the next few months. On the one hand, we can see some small growth in alternative lifestyles and spirituality perspectives. While I do not see alternative Spiritual perspectives gaining the equal footing on a social basis with the Big Five, I can see an opening for some positive growth. Growth that would allow people to be who they are openly, without fear of reprisal from their employer or government agencies pulling their kids away to foster-care. In-roads into these areas has been well documented, but there is still a lot of open ground to cover before we can see everyone safe with this. Not just in Spirituality, but also where one’s declared gender is concerned, as well as being able to openly declare who you love or how many you love.

The Other Side of the Coin

However, there is a distinct, different direction that things can go in the next few months. Society could lean towards a more fundamentalist perspective, where everything falls back to so-called “traditional” values. In that case, Druidry, Paganism, Gender Declaration, Polyamory could all fall towards a level far deeper than societal disdain. In this direction, there is a distinct darker cloud over our future…and the potential (not a guarantee that it will be completely so bleak) where who we are, how we are, what we are – is outlawed. Of course, that approaches the apocalyptic perspective which is a major extreme. However, I can see a future society that pushes Druidry, Paganism, Gender Declaration, and Polyamory (among a lot of other perspectives) into an underground status, where you are very quiet about who you are – almost living within a secret society and a double life. I remember thos days from the late 1980s and early 1990s. I am sure many of you out there reading this post are nodding and saying that things have not changed, even today.

Now I am not talking about anything beyond five to ten years with all of this. Why? That is really simple. I cannot envision a future any further than that. In fact, I refuse to do so. A future beyond the scope of ten years is beyond the scope of my ability to clearly see and predict.

If the Coin Lands on the Edge

However, let us take a perspective beyond ten years. Let us refer to this as my dream for the future of Druidry and Paganism, among other perspectives, lifestyles and beliefs. I still don’t envision Pagan temples and Sacred Spaces on neighborhood corners, as we see a huge variety of Christian spaces of worship today. In fact, I am not sure I would want to see that at all. What I do envision are Scared Spaces, usable by any faiths, dotting the countryside. Where Druids, Pagans, and any other faiths can hold their ceremonies, rites and gatherings openly. A future where visitors to any of these gatherings are welcome regardless of their faith or perspective. I envision a world where the color of my skin or eyes has no bearing on how anyone else treats me. Where differences of opinions are settled with discussion rather than angry words that are erroneously cloaked in the word “debate”. My hope is that we get there, one day. I fear I will have shed my human form in this current existence long before it happens. I can only hope that whatever existence I take on into the future will be capable of continuing forward the gentle push to make the necessary changes for all of us to get to what I hope for the future. However, in the meantime, I can hope and continue to plant the seeds of hope. All of this writing may seem futile to many, but if I reach just one person…that will be enough.

We have the right to our freedom
This is the life we choose
We never asked for you and all your rules

Black ‘n’ Blue, “Rules from the album “Nasty, Nasty”

–T /|\

Thinking About: This Year and What is to Come

Yesterday, I took the day to go to Denton County for medical appointments. When I lived in Lindsay, it was a little easier, as the drive one-way was forty-five minutes. Now, Hillsboro to Denton County is about an hour longer, which makes me pile my medical appointments one top of the other for those Wednesdays, and turns a trip to Denton County into an all-day affair. I could just move to new doctors down on this side of town, but once I am comfortable with a doctor, I hate to give them up. On the way home, with my eyes all blurry from being dilated and my right getting a steroid shot to help with my vision (that’s right, I get shots in my eyes about every seven weeks or so), I decided to stop for Chinese food on the way back home. No dine-in option, because the local Chinese place doesn’t deem it safe to have the dine-in area of the restaurant open due to COVID-19 concerns. All of which suits me just fine – given that I am still not comfortable being out in the public spaces for any length of time. So drive-thru window it was to be. I went home, ate about three-quarters of what I ordered and promptly went to sleep. Today, I have struggled to find my topic for today, until I opened my fortune cookie and saw the message hidden inside.

At that moment, I started wondering what in the Nine Hells this was trying to tell me. I’m not one to believe in fortune cookie sorcery, but I always take a moment to pause and consider how these generic messages inserted at random in some fortune cookie factory might fit into my life. I have always found this to be an excellent source for self reflection, and have come away with some really good journal entries concerning my feelings towards where that particular cookie brought me. But this one? This floored me in a way I was not really ready for.

See, I am just like anyone else. I see all the troubles that inhabit our current times. Police brutality issues that are centered in an unbalanced manner against people of color, our out of control President here in the United States, our Senate here in the States that enables his outrageous behavior, the cries for justice that are happening everywhere, our desire for the freedoms promised to all citizens of this country that are our current government seems to hold as dear and proper for only those that support the President, and the ever present fear of COVID-19. I look around and I see people who are behind on their rent and with the eviction restrictions that our governor placed on landlords about to expire over this coming weekend – I just cannot fathom what or how those evicted are going to be able to manage in an environment where they have been furloughed or outright laid off from their jobs. I look at all of that and feel the weight of despair, injustice and the growing anger that is seemingly all around me. I live in a VERY Trump-supporter heavy county. Nearly every vehicle that has a political statement in the form of a sticker has one supporting Trump. If you go into any public space within the county, you will encounter a multitude of red-hats being proudly displayed. If you drive between Cleburne and Hillsboro (the two nearest large cities), you will drive by house after house on the rural highway that is displaying either a Trump/Pence 2020 yard sign or flying a Trump flag (yes, a flag) in their yard. And these people are active in the Facebook groups for the county, and very vocal about their support for the President. And even more vocal about what they would do to protesters in the streets, if they came across them. That anger and hate is laid out as naked and arrogant as possible, with a hint of violent tendencies just beneath the surface for those that don’t agree. So, in terms of the so-called “long-game,” I am not overly optimistic.

But there is hope, which is what my fortune is seemingly reminding me of. Trump does not get elected solely off the vote here in Hill County or even solely off the vote from here in Texas. However, if he does manage to eek out four more years in the White House, there is still hope. Because we still have each other. I look to the love and caring I get in messages in Email or in Direct Messages or in Facebook status posts, or tweets on Twitter. Take away all the politics, all the ridiculous online debates, and even turn off the news….and the best is still there. Even despite COVID-19, we still celebrate life among one another. We celebrate birth dates, we rejoice in anniversaries of dates we became friends on Facebook. We find happiness in each other, no matter the distances. When we feel down, our friends take time out to console us, they write private messages to engage us, they comment on posts to help heal us – no matter how small that might feel like. All of that is triumphs that we have in our lives. Why does that happen? Because we are in this together. To steal a movie quote from Matrix: Reloaded:

Believe me when I say we have a difficult time ahead of us. But if we are to be prepared for it, we must first shed our fear of it. I stand here, before you now, truthfully unafraid. Why? Because I believe something you do not? No, I stand here without fear because I remember. I remember that I am here not because of the path that lies before me but because of the path that lies behind me.

Morpheus

What comes after this point? An election. A hopeful end to a devastating virus. A new world that will change every step in my life for the future. I know there will be an election, I know a vaccine that helps drive down the devastation of COVID-19 will be found, and I know that a new life is waiting for me, just around the corner. The what and when of all of that, I cannot predict, but I am not about to stop fighting or believing in any of what I just stated. Why? Because I believe harder than you? No…as pointed out by Morpheus in the quote above, because I remember and look back on what has gotten me to this point. All the hard work, all the struggle, wrapped up in all of the time and effort I put into going forward. I believe that I can continue to go forward and that I will see positive change, but only so long as everyone else remains willing to fight, work, and struggle. I have faith in your ability to work together and move forward for change. I have faith in all of you that are pushing for a world of equality for all. Certainly, we live in uncertain and unstable times, but our goals for change happen further on. This is not a time to despair over where we are, it is a time to remember where we are headed – and knowing that there is still much work to be done. I do believe that….all thanks to fortune cookie that I opened, just a few hours ago. Who says that the Gods don’t work in weird and strange ways? 🙂

–T /|\

If You Want to Predict the Future, Live it With Your Eyes Wide Open

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

I read a lot. Probably more than I should. And rarely is it just stuff on Paganism or Druidry. usually, it is about History, particularly the history of computing. One of my favorite books is What the Dormouse Said” by John Markof which goes into lengthy detail about how the world of experimental drug use helped some of the visionaries of the computer dream up some of the stuff that we take for granted. One of the people chronicled in the book is Alan Kay, to whom the quote that stirred this post is attributed to. There is some debate as to whether he really stated such, but it eventually became the working maxim of Xerox PARC, where much of the computing world’s innovations grew from.

If you want to predict the future, invent it.

Which is quite literally, what they did at Xerox PARC. So, what does this have to do with a blog on Paganism and Druidry? Well, if you have read this for any length of time, you know that I take long looks into my own personal past. I have never claimed to be a Saint or any type of visionary. I have helped out in a handful of causes within the United States military to help further religious equality. When I left the US military, others stepped up and took my place and continued pushing forward. My contributions, however small those may be, are a part of the legacy I leave behind.

Standing still and looking back is nice, but coming back to Kay’s point – what about tomorrow? I turn fifty-three later this year (much later this year), and I have no desire to shuffle off this mortal coil any time in the future. As a wider-arching community, we stand in a whirling dervish of confusion, anger, miscommunication, and pain. When I try to see forward, that miasma clouds what may happen, what might be, what can be – and that makes the footing uncertain. what can I do to help leave my Pagan community a better one than when I arrived in the middle of the Witch Wars of the late 1980s?

To be extremely explicit here, I am no savior. I won’t be the individual that solves all the problems of the world. In fact, I see myself as nothing more than an extremely minor character in the world around me. I blog. I write my thoughts out here for others to read. My readership is fairly small. What impact can I have? I have no desire to be a “famous-Amos” in the Pagan community. I truly just want to be me – a simple Priest of Crow, a Druid on a Path to honor the Gods, just me. I am not a shining beacon of hope. I am no paragon of virtue, no hero of true deeds. Every day, I ask what it is that I can do to help make my Pagan community better. And every day, I hear the same things in the back of my mind:

Get involved. Just be you. Your contribution is to be yourself. Your future is to walk your Path and to stumble and fall. And then to get back up, dust off your cloak, and continue your Path.

Is it really just that simple? Just get up in the mornings and greet the Sun? Get out in the backyard and pour my offerings to the Gods? To say the words, make the gestures, and pour my soul into what I believe? Surely, there is a quest that I can undertake? There is a fight that I can be a part of?

And then the response comes:

What about getting involved? Get off your ass and get back into your community. You are a solo Pagan. Being solo means you walk your Spiritual Path by yourself. That is who you are, but you do not walk your daily Path in life by yourself. You cannot and will not survive like that. There are no heroic quests to undergo. There is no ring to carry. No tremendous burden that needs to be placed on your shoulders. You want a quest? SHOW people what it means to be a Pagan. BE who you are, but no one can see that just through your words.

Yeah. Getting dressed down by your God is never an awesome thing. Nor is it a great thing to realize that you have been eating too much of the fantastic world of Fantasy novels, where the common character becomes an uncommon hero by having some heavy burden or quest placed upon them. Life is not a quest to throw the One Ring into the volcano. And real Life is not a constant struggle against the Orcs or the difficulties of traversing the mines of Moria.

So what does the future hold for me? I really cannot say for sure. As I noted, the way forward is cloudy. But then, the future is always an uncertain thing to predict. Sure, I can follow Key’s maxim and try to ‘invent’ my way through it. But then, isn’t the future always going to be a product of invention? We are never sure of the way forward and have to take the steps to see if the footing is firm and sure. Inventing is – for me – a rather poor word choice for this. Perhaps, a little editing and mending might be more appropriate.

If you want to predict the future, live it.

After all, finding out what the future holds means walking through the mists and discovering what lies beyond. And for me, that means shedding some of the illusions of being some form of hero in all of this. As has been noted before, the Storm is here. The dervish has pulled all of us into it to one degree or another. We have all experienced some of the chaotic winds that it provides. And for me, I have stumbled and fallen from my Path. Time to right myself, dust off my cloak, pick up my staff and continue doing what it is that I should be doing. There are some unpredictable aspects to all of this, including how to get back into my wider Pagan community, which means trying to see how and where I fit in. And being an individual that is not very good at public, social situations – that means pushing myself into areas where I am uncomfortable. I have no desire to predict the future, but to find out what the future holds – I have to live it. And I have to live it with my eyes wide open.

–T /|\

Digging Ourselves Up in the Future

History is a subject that I devour like small candy pieces. Reading an individual’s interpretation as to how a group of people did or did not live in a time frame long lost to the empty reaches of time can sometimes be amusing or very eye-opening. And the manner in which a historian presents their perspective with the passion usually reserved for a special Lover can literally sell the reader’s belief in the right or wrong of what is being presented. How much of what is presented is reality, and how much conjecture?

That particular point has been one I have faced with some degree of amusement. I am sure there is a side of humanity, one hundred years in the future, that will look upon the presidency of the Sunkist Orange with a layer of amusement combined with a layer of awestruck horror. But that is not what I am referring to. Rather, I have wondered what the future may hold for the modern Pagan and Polytheist movements. How will the future archeologists of the future view someone living a dedicated Pagan, Polytheistic lifestyle? How would the small stone circle in my backyard be viewed through the backward facing lens of the future?

cropped-img_28671.jpgOf course, there is a lot more documentation of the meaning of such things through our blog posts, our own writings – which honestly are far more voluminous today than just a few decades in our own recent past. We have blog posts that spread throughout the world via the internet. There are podcast episodes that do the same thing, except via sound. There are YouTube channels of many Pagans talking about their beliefs, their practices, and even demonstrating some of their ritual techniques. And the books. The music. The storytelling. All a part of our legacy to the future – whether we intend it to be or not.

And will our intentions with all of that recorded history and thought be understood with the same intention it was made with? After all, the future history could be colored with a jaundiced eye that receives its primary instruction of belief from a society that is even more Christian-oriented than it is today. Or perhaps one where a spiritual belief of any kind has been abandoned for one reason or another. Perhaps, our digital media recordings have been wiped from recorded history because of some digital disaster. And the written, paper media has been dissipated and dissolved from the inevitable decay of time. That would mean that all that was left were the storytellers – left to repeat and reiterate the understanding of our history from generation to generation around the nighttime fires.

Yes, the storyteller has the chance to reign supreme if a complete failure of human society occurs. If the world suddenly becomes the nightmares depicted within the Mad Max movies, the storytellers will continue. And knowing the manner in which stories are misremembered within oral-only tellings, how much can our history become distorted? How much bias can be injected into the remembering of Pagans and Polytheists by the Storyteller themselves? Yes, there is power in the Spoken word; particularly if the written word is not there to provide a secondary reference.

Now I am painting a particularly gloomy future. But the same distortion can be found if a utopian, technology-driven society is in place. After all, a Pagan, Polytheist society can be wiped out by a societal group with sufficient numbers. What would these archeologists make of all of us? Would we be a backward society? Would we be a small, superstitious cult?

On the other hand, a society that grows into something our wildest dreams could not even contain may look at our current Pagan and Polytheist communities as individuals who had to fight for equality and proper recognition. And sometimes lost those battles. Perhaps an archeological dig would turn up our various ritual tools, and Pagan-eseque items. We could be scoffed at for our consumerist tendencies. Or our future generations may wonder how we could manage our rituals and home worship without this particular item or another.

All of this makes me wonder even more about how I might be perceived were my home be the site of an archeological dig. Would it be possible to tell the difference between my Pagan home versus those of my nearby neighbors, most of whom are Catholic? Should they be able to tell the difference, aside from my backyard stone circle? When it comes to our history, the cultural effects that we might leave behind as Pagans and Polytheists, could the future properly decipher who we were, what we believed, and how we lived? And if we are to create something that would provide these clues in an appropriate manner, how should our lives look?

And honestly, while these are great questions to marvel over – to tease some odd angles out of our thinking – much of this smacks of the old “Pagan Enough” movement of a few years back, for which I have a good deal of disdain for. A Pagan is a Pagan. It is not what they own, what they wear, who they have sex with, what books are on their shelves, or how large their compost pile is that makes them who they are. Its what is in their heart, and how they approach their concept of what is divine. It is about how they connect to their environment around them. And not one bit of that can be discerned by their photos, the clothes in their closet, who they read or what car they drive.  No, it is what is in their hearts and who they are – and the truth they have for themselves. And when we finally have the ability to leave that behind in something other than our writings and recordings – then we might be able to convey that to the future. But until that becomes possible, the clues we leave behind have just as much of a chance to confusing us as the clues left behind by our ancestors from prehistoric ages. Much like we are doing to our previous generations, our future generations will have to make the best-educated guesses that they can – and run the intermediate risks of being wrong.

I Have No Desire to be a “Helicopter Elder” – More Thoughts on Being an Elder in a Changing Pagan and Polytheist Community

Well, we have now come to the last of the topics I have culled from all my notes made at Many Gods West 2017. This last one, I have written about to various degrees already. But I thought it might be interesting to explore this from the perspective of Polytheism added to the Pagan slant that it builds on.

As the Elders of the Pagan community move on, our generation becomes the next Elders. What happens next? How do we nurture the younger generations to help facilitate the necessary change and growth within our varied Pagan communities??

I believe that the entire paragraph is worth looking at by each successive generation of Pagans and Polytheists as time progresses on. For me, this paragraph continues to underline that realization I had last year — being in the Pagan community to one degree or another since 1986, I have become an “Elder”. I certainly hope that I am not looked upon in that manner because I am unsure what it means to be an Elder, aside from the single descriptor of longevity. But honestly, that descriptive measure of time is a large part of what defines the concept of Elder or at least that’s what I have come to comprehend. But this is really not about wearing the “Elder cape” – it is about being helpful to others as they also grow on their own Paths.

First, Pagans are fairly independent folk. Needing nurturing or leadership is not necessary for many. Nor do they need to have someone tell them what they are or not. I watched this play out in a Pagan group when I was stationed in Germany. What was meant to be an umbrella group that encompassed many Pagan beliefs was perverted into being a “Wiccan” circle by one individual, who represented it in this manner to the Air Force chaplaincy at Ramstein Air Base. It made many people upset over the designation and drove a lot of people away from the group. Not all Pagans are Wiccans and that held true for the group. And it holds true here in the present day. So, how to handle the concepts of nurturing growth and change when the folks you might be working directly with may not want it?? Especially if they are not of the same Path as you or do not share a lot of the common aspects of faith that you do?

So, how to handle the concepts of nurturing growth and change when the folks you might be working directly with may not want it?? Especially if they are not of the same Path as you or do not share a lot of the common aspects of faith that you do? Well, I cannot speak from the perspective of anyone other than myself. And to be honest, if you ask five other Pagans this same question when we compare all the answers – we should have nine or ten ways to approach it. So, what I share comes solely from me….

I believe the best way to approach the idea is to encourage people to explore what they are experiencing but with caution. Sometimes, in exploring something, you can place yourself in a dangerous spot. Have someone that can be your anchor. Since my experiences with spirituality will differ from your own, most of the time, I cannot explain what is right or wrong in what you experience or the process that you undertake. I can provide examples of how I would do something, but that is merely how I would approach something.

So, in nurturing younger Pagans and Polytheists on how to move forward in their own Spirituality, I would be available to them to explain my processes, my experiences, and my methodologies. However, being available is different from trying to wedge my way into their practices. The well-worn saying of “when the student is ready, the teacher will appear” comes to mind. And I am not fond of the “teacher” part of this, as I see myself more as a mentor. I am there to provide advice, and if you trust me enough – I will even gladly be an anchor for you. I am not teaching as much as I am advising. It is still up to you to decide what to do, when, where, and how. For me, this is an ideal way to approach the concept of nurturing the growth of the younger generations of Pagans.

Perhaps, in the future, members of these younger generations of Pagan and Polytheists will step into roles of leadership, teaching, and being Elders, themselves. I certainly hope that I can serve as some kind of example for some of them, just as so many other Pagans and Polytheists out there will also serve as examples of leadership – both positive and negative examples. Yes, the infamous Pagan musician that gets arrested for child porn and has a sullied reputation throughout the wider Pagan community can serve as an example as well as a beloved writer, blogger, musician, Priest or Priestess does. Predators within our community may not be the best examples of what to be in a wider community, but they do serve as examples of what to watch for.

Predators within our community may not be the best examples of what to be in a wider community, but they do serve as examples of what to watch for. There is no police force for our community, other than ourselves. In order to help our younger Pagans and Polytheists have a safe environment to learn and experience within, as they make a choice of where they will go in their Spiritual growth; we need to know what to look for, as well as what to guard against. Furthermore, we need to also be careful that we do not wind up imitating the insane Witch Hunts of the 1980s that fueled a rabid evangelical Christian base to forcing non-Christians to submit to some aspect of a “character test” to prove they were “fit parents” according to their (the Christians) standards. There is a fine balance between protection and persecution – we (the Pagan community) should be cognizant of that measure, especially as our younger generations begin to come of age.

Honestly, I am not what I consider to be a “leader” of any sort. Emails, text messages, and conversations from many other people tend to prove me wrong on that point. I am not a Presidential figure that stands up and makes statements that every Pagan should hear about. That is one type of leadership. I am available for advice. I am available to just be an ear to bend for others. I am available to talk about my experiences within my Paganism and my Polytheism. I am available for hugs. I am available to stand between you and someone else, barring the way when you need shelter or protection. And while I consider all of that to just be “me being me” – I have come to recognize that it is a form of leadership as well. I want to see Paganism and Polytheism continue to openly grow.

I want to see Paganism and Polytheism continue to openly grow. I dream of a day where being a Pagan and/or Polytheist does not draw a negative stigmatism from the general public. Where being a Pagan or a Polytheist is just as accepted in the wider world society as being a Christian, an Atheist, an Agnostic, Buddhist, Muslim, or any other faith tends to be. Where living a lifestyle where honoring the Gods openly is not seen as some sign of “mental illness or instability.” And that is not going to happen unless the younger generations to explore what being a Pagan means to them. They will eventually need someone to talk about their experiences, their theories on various subjects – and not be prejudged for what they think. For me, that happens when they are given the room to do just that….and I have no desire to become a “Helicopter Elder”.

1.5 Days at Pantheacon – the Pagan Future and Leadership

Well, Pantheacon 2016 is certainly everything that it has been made out to be…and much more. There are Pagans and Pagan-friendly people EVERYWHERE in this hotel. And its not a small hotel either. There are Pagans of all types here, I’ve met folks of neaarly every Spiritual stripe, and there’s no need to get into sexual orientation, skin pigmentation, hair color or eye color. Because all of that obviously does not matter. Everyone is friendly, smiling, and having fun. And for a people watcher person like me – its an awesome site to see and comprehend.

Seriously. Many people discuss this place like its a wild circus or something. The closest thing that has happened to that – the Krampus revellers that passed by me on Friday night. They were loud…and HAIRY. But it was a seriously fun moment for me. It caught me unawares, while I was eating dinner in the lobby area – and it was just a moment that was out of whack. Flat out fun.

But the one thing that has seriously impressed me is the number of young folks here. And when I mean young people, I mean people below the age of eighteen (or at least seem to be that young). Seeing young people getting involved in their Spirituality, and taking it seriously is heartening to an old fart like myself (who is a spring chicken at 50 when compared to some of the other attendees here). I can definitely see that the younger generation of Pagans are looking for ways to build upon the Paganism that is being offered to them by the older generation (myself included).

And I have met other folks as well. One of the panel security folks that I talked with on Friday night was a former military member – and joined the military after I got out. We talked about how Paganism has been in the military during his term. It was seriously awesome to hear how the military has expanded its awareness of who and what Pagans are – and to some degree have become a little more accepting of this. Essentially, what I was getting a look at was how things have been built upon from the work that I (and others) had done when we were in.

Its that utilization of the building blocks of the Past by those in the Present that really tugs at my heartstrings. These folks don’t have to piece together a Past to build for their Future. They can mold and shape what is already there. And it totally freaks me out to think of myself as an “Elder” or even as a “Leader” of anything. And yet, here I am starting to realize that I am both of those – regardless of what I think.

IMG_0180So far, I have sat in on a few panels. Each presenter has provided their points of view with interesting clarity, sometimes punctuated with bawdy and somewhat irreverent humor. But everyone has been spot on with their messages. From the darker aspects of Druidry to Finding One’s Personal Magick to an academic (and fun) exploration of the Dagda to a wonderful talk on the Welsh Gods and Goddesses, the underlying message is clear – Paganism is alive and well in our modern world society. For some it may not be growing fast enough (or at all) for where they live, for others it may not be growing quite the way that they would wish it to…but rest assured it is alive and well.

That means that some of us (particularly myself) need to get off our asses and step into roles of leadership. That’s a particularly difficult perspective for me – an INFT on the Briggs/Meyers test – to assume. I’m a naturally introverted individual, preferring to handle aspects of my Spirituality as a solitaire practitioner. But, as I am learning – being a leader does not mean that I would be leading rituals.

Let me be honest here, I SUCK at leading rituals with others involved. I am not the greatest at facilitating for others. And I know this. It is something that I will have to work on. And there are two workshops that I chose at this convention that are my first baby-steps in that direction. But there are other ways to be a leader or even a mentor. I can talk with folks that are new to their Path, reassure them that their new found connectedness to the world around them is not some form of mental illness. I can talk about some of the missteps and pitfalls I have encountered on my long strange trip (that its been), and commiserate with those that have stepped in dog-shit elsewhere on the field. I can continue to talk about my Paganism, and my Druidry here on this blog – where others can read it. I can continue to bring the stories of others to the podcast – so people can see that they are not alone. And most importantly, I can stop running from the concept of leadership…I don’t have to be the captain of the boat to be a leader.

I heaar the heavy breathing of the Wolf by my side. I feel the strong grip of the talons on my shoulder. I hear the laughter and sweet whisper of Fliodhas coming from the edge of the forest, enticing me to come and wander through the trees hand-in-hand. But I also grasp the undercurrent of what all three say from time to time – stop hiding in the shadows. Step forward and be what you are supposed to be.

Whether I like the idea or not, I am a leader in this vast Pagan community. And while I have not noticed the younger generation coming to the fireside over the last few years – they are here. And they are watching. And learning. And growing in their Spirituality. My time of resting and being stagnate is over – I either step forward or get out of the game. Stepping forward is where I am headed. What about you??

Paganism: Forty to Fifty Years…Maybe

The Wild Hunt has a featured article on “where Paganism will be in 100 years“. Eight individuals were asked to provide their perspectives, including John Beckett. Now I’ve known John for a while, and his perspective was not that surprising to me. And honestly, its a perspective I can share in to some degree. The other seven folks also had very different views on where the next hundred years will/may take us – the Pagan community – into the unknown future.

I thought this was an interesting exercise, so I have decided to provide my own perspective. Except I am not going to head quite that far down the road. Instead, I am going to aim at a patch of time:  forty-to-fifty years. Why?  Because trying to foresee the future is really difficult stuff. And while one-hundred years makes for an interesting barrier that goes just far enough down the road and past the horizon, for me that’s a bit too far for my failing eyes (thank you, diabetes type-2) to glimpse.

First off, I have no special dispensation on what the future may or may not hold. In fact, I’m nowhere near being enough of a social scientist to even predict fads, trends, and social changes. All of which can factor into how something as personal as religious beliefs and practices can be discerned. In fact, I’ll stop and point out that everything I note here is merely my own jaundiced perception of the immediate future being projected against the back wall of the room while the lights are dim.

I would hope, in my heart of hearts, that human kind would learn to be more caring and favorable to one another. The current election cycle put a claw hammer through the skull of that dream. With politicians bandying about hateful and hurtful remarks against people of a racial or religious background, there’s a lot more territory to cover before that happens. With protest movements continuing to focus on the barriers that divide us, rather than on how removing those barriers changes the focus, I just don’t see where people are going to alter their perception to that of all people being equal, and worthy of respect. That battle, I do believe, will continue to be the same uphill struggle that we currently push against.

Paganism, from a wide-ranging “umbrella” or “big-tent” notation, will continue to grow. I have heard statements tossed around that liken Pagan belief systems as some of the fastest growing segments of religious belief on the face of the planet. Perhaps that is so, perhaps not. But I do see more and more Pagans stepping forward publicly with their beliefs, unafraid of the social stigma that it may or may not carry. I can only see that growing in strength and in numbers. I’ve been a public Pagan for most of my life – just a touch under thirty years now. In the beginning, I was public because I had the protection of being in a closed community – the United States Air Force – where my right to believe and worship as I wished was somewhat protected. I have delighted in Pagans continuing to embrace their beliefs openly, and shed the social stigma attached with Paganism, as if it were merely a straw blanket placed over them. In forty to fifty years? Perhaps Pagans will be in widely viewed jobs, such as television journalism – openly Pagan on the air, and willing to share the same space cordially with non-Pagans. Or, perhaps forty to fifty years might be a touch too soon, and such a change will take place shortly thereafter.

In a political and social environment that seems to value and desires to protect our natural surroundings, I continue to see hope. However, I see change as being far slower than I had imagined it would be fifteen years ago. We still have a major segment of the world community that views the Earth as a natural resource to consume and use at their whim, not as a part of the environment that we all make up together. Where will all that be in forty or fifty years? I would hope much further along, but I fear that any major changes won’t be made until we have done irreparable damage to our relationship with Mother Earth.

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

There were a few points made about Temples and Sacred Space – particularly that it will come quickly, and that our overall world community would embrace such locations for the religious aspects that they bring. In all my traveling around the United States over the past three years, I have only seen one location that was held up for its sacredness. That was Medicine Wheel in the Wyoming Bighorn Forest, near Medicine Mountain. And when I visited, in the middle of Summer, I was one of three people there. Not much of a visited place, other than by the local First Nations’ tribes that utilized it for their own ceremonies. Other places, such as Glacier National Park, the Badlands, and Mesa Verde – had the feel of a tourist attraction, rather than the sacred locations that they are. I am left to wonder, in forty to fifty years, will the attitude towards such places change? Would building temples to the Gods attract the believers or would it attract the sight-seekers with their selfie sticks, merely there to take a photo proving they were there? I am not completely sure, which of those would truly took hold in that time span, much less within the next one-hundred years.

A trail along a cliff face in Mesa Verde

I know. Rereading all of this, it seems a somewhat bleak picture. That perhaps Paganism will not took hold in the rocky soil we are trying to plant it. But surely, I would say that the future of Paganism is quite bright. As more come to know their connectivity to their surrounding environment; how they are not apart from their world as conquerers, users, and abusers — the future for Paganism begins to shine. Where people who choose the path of Paganism can shed their dark cloaks and step out of the shadows, free to be who they are – without fear of reprisal or social stigma. For me, that is what my fight with the United States Air Force in gaining chapel space for Pagan rites was all about. Not to shove my beliefs down someone’s throat. Rather it was about being able to step out into the public light – free to be who I am, without shame or fear. And that, my dear friends and readers, is what the next forty to fifty years will attain. The freedom for those who come after us – the generations yet to step on to the paths of Paganism – to be who they are. And never to fear the burnings, the beatings, the fear or the shame of others. Whatever else I may believe, this I will continue to fight for it to come to fruition. And I know many others will too.