Thinking About: The Gods, You, and Your Choices

Its an innocent question, especially if you’re new to Paganism. “How do you worship the Gods?” But it can also be twisted slightly into “How SHOULD you worship the Gods?” I got this question an Email over the weekend..the version without the SHOULD in it. Answering it seems quite simple and easy. But like any other question in the arena of personal Spirituality, its not as simple as it sounds.

Worship of the Gods comes in whatever form you desire. That’s the easy way to view things. You do whatever feels “natural” and “right” in providing worship to Them. If its “wrong” or not “right” you’ll hear about it. From the Gods, from those who worship those Gods, from your hardcore Christian friends…it seems like everyone feels they have the “right” to weigh in on what you do in your veneration of the Gods. Knowing that can happen, many folks shy away from being public about their perspective on stuff like this. Its understandable. Who in the Nine Hells wants a beat-down from every direction? It happens, just not as often as you might think. But it does happen. Except here in this blog post. I’m not about to tell you what you do or do not need to do to worship the Gods. I’ll only say that its not as easy as you think it is.

That’s right. You don’t pick up the Deities & DemiGods Handbook (Dungeons and Dragons), drool over that smoking hot sketch of Freya and offer your horn-dog self up to be Her sex slave. Well, it could happen that way. But I’d offer that She is likely to bitch-slap you into several yester-years when She eventually tires of your shit. Just my opinion there. Worshipping the Gods can truly be as easy as lighting a few candles, lighting some incense, and saying a few words of adoration. However, if you want to tie yourself with a God, its not as easy. Making a pact with a God is like making a pact with the fairies. Its not an easy deal, and likely you’re not covering all your bases. However, if you can work it to a favorable perspective for you, such a pact can be quite fruitful.

I’m tied in with Coyote, Crow and Abnoba. When I started working with Coyote, and Crow – I was made into a fool with the things that were suggested for me to do and try. Eventually, I got frustrated and meditated my frustration and anger towards Them. Why would They want an idiot like me to work with Them? If They wanted to work with me, why make me look like a fool? Was I just to be some kind of play-thing? Their response was simple and took me aback just a bit. They wanted to work with someone who had a spine, someone that could evaluate what was being asked to do something and could say “no.” They wanted someone who wouldn’t be a “yes” person. That took a while for me to acclimate to. Over the years, I’ve said “yes” far more than I’ve said “no.” I’ve also learned to justify my answers as well. But that’s been through years of work – lots of trial and error.

I’ve had plenty of claims of appropriation leveled against me for working with First Nations’ Gods. Frankly, the Gods choose who They choose. As a white guy, I always found it troubling that I had these two Gods working with me. When I thought of trying to add First Nations’ methodologies to my Spiritual practice, I was reminded that I was not of “the people” (Their term for the First Nations’ people). My workings and pact with Them did not provide a pass into that culture. My workings with Them was to be “different.” And it has been.

The Gods do claim whom They wish to. Sometimes, you get the chance to say no. Honestly, I would say “no” if The Morrigan expressed a wish to work with me. I’m just not built in a manner to work in the areas that She tends to be in. Plus, my uber-Libra nature would cause me to question motives, reasons, and such things in a way that might not appropriate to deal with Her. I’d rather keep my life a little less chaotic, thank you very much.

So how should you worship the Gods? Well, that’s more trial and error for the most part. At least in my opinion. How you approach the Gods will be far different than my own. I don’t lie prostrate before the Gods. I stand. In silence. With respect. The Gods are not my equals. They are far greater than I am. But I don’t need to make myself inferior to Them because of that. I exist here, materially. They don’t. Though there are myths and legends of yesteryear that say otherwise. My pacts with Coyote, Crow, and Abnoba (to a lesser degree) are for me to act on Their behalf on tasks that They require of me. Some are easy. Most are not. Far fewer are extremely difficult. While I provide respect and acknowledge Their presence as being special to me – I’m not in the position to place Them front and center in my rituals and rites. Remember, I am not of “the people.” I am not to try and turn myself into something I am definitely not.

There will be those that say that you SHOULD worship THIS God or Goddess in THIS manner. Honestly, I would defer to their perspective on that. Its their way to approach their respective God or Goddess. I could not ascertain the “rightness” or “wrongness” of their preferred methodology. Well, unless they were sacrificing people’s lives or killing/mutilating animals. I don’t believe that the life-force of anything needs to be sacrificed to appease some Being from another realm. Just my two quid into the pot on that.

So, how should someone worship the Gods? Well, whatever way you believe you should. I would posit that most worship is done in the vein of love and respect. Just how you show and convey that, is really up to you, in my opinion. If the Gods show you a different way, as Coyote and Crow have done for me, follow that. But in the end, you’re in control of you. You know what works and are aware when something doesn’t work for you. That holds true in worship of the Gods as well. If you do a ritual a certain way because it was what was taught to you…that’s awesome! If you like to go “off script” and you find that its what resonates with your daily Spirituality and feels like a stronger connection with the Gods and your environment around you….super awesome! Keep doing that!! Your choices are yours to make…

In closing, I’ll share a something I wrote on Facebook about a dozen years ago.

Individual choices are merely echoes within life….the ripples from each provides a cascade we can only fathom in our deepest imaginations.

me

Do you wish to worship the Gods within your daily practice? That choice is ultimately yours. As is the choice of how you go about doing so. Your spirituality, your choices.

–Tommy /|\

Thinking About: 1983 and That Theology Class

This morning, my automated music application (MusicBee) started me off with some Ozzy Osbourne. Not an unusual musical choice for me. Ozzy was one of my very first steps out into the rock environment with his first solo album (Blizzard of Ozz). When I first heard the song “Crazy Train” I was completely hooked (forgive the pun here – my last name can be utilized as a variant to anything “hook” related). The soaring guitar riffs of Randy Rhoads were like nothing I had heard before. Most of my early childhood was spent listening to Tom T. Hall, Gilbert O’Sullivan, and the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s country music artists that were my father’s musical choices. MusicBee started me off with a cut from Ozzy’s 1983 solo album, “Bark at the Moon – the first studio album after the untimely death of Randy Rhoads.

1983 is an interesting year in my life. This was my junior year in high school. Many changes were arriving in my lap, all at the same time. I had my first steady girlfriend. I had my very first job. I was exposed to the concept of critical thinking in my Theology class. See, my parents didn’t believe that the public school system was a good choice for education. They wanted me to be “highly educated” – particularly in what they considered to be “classical education.” They felt that the Catholic school education model was far superior, and enrolled both myself and my sister in private Catholic schools, particularly for our high school education. I understood their reasoning, but only later in my life. They merely wanted to give their children an advantage that neither of them had. It’s a completely understandable perspective. What it did; however, was foment a growing revolutionary aspect in my mind. I was never truly enamored with the Catholic faith. It was pretty, and at some points it was interesting – but I’ve never been one to follow the crowd. That’s still true to this day. My preference has always been to find my own way.

Theology is a class that was taught at every year in the school I attended. It really wasn’t a class on all the beliefs that were out there. Essentially, it was a class meant to indoctrinate students into the Catholic faith. Each year built upon the previous year’s teachings – adding new material that was more complex in understanding. The function of the Priesthood, Nunneries, the Catechism, the reasoning, and aspects of the Rosary, the need and concepts behind confession, etc. etc. Me, not being a Catholic, I found this constant drilling unnecessary and unwelcome. However, I paid attention to the best of my ability. I went to the monthly forced services. I genuflected, stood, kneeled at the proper points of the Mass, but I never went to received communion. I just felt that this part of the Mass was meant for those that believed in the faith, not for a kid of protestant parents who had no desire to be in the Catholic faith. Then came my junior year Theology class, and suddenly my perspective of these “forced” classes changed – for a single semester.

It was the third semester. Spring is what they called it. In the beginning of January. We had just come back from the Christmas holidays. We were in a class of around twenty-five, and our scheduled time was right after lunch. We were full of food, and in a heated classroom. Sleepiness was a key factor. Our instructor brought out an old record player and set it on a four-legged stool at the front of the class. Great. We’re about to be bombarded with the Catholic version of gospel music. He took the record out of the sleeve, placed it on the turntable and put the needle on the disc. Jesus Christ Superstar’s opening overture started. With freakin’ hard rock guitars!! What was this witchery?? Catholic rock??

After the overture played, he took the needle off the record and stared at all of us – one by one. He had this huge smile on his face. “That’s what we are going to learn in this quarter,” he announced. Learn what? How to sing it? How to play it on instruments? We’re going to become musicians in a Theology class? “No, we’re going to learn critical thinking. Using this rock opera, the backdrop of Christ’s crucifixion, and your ability to think and change perspectives.”

Slowly, we went through the entire rock opera. Song by song. The lyric sheet was passed around to the class, so that we could read what was being sung. So that we could use those lyrics to five into deeper conversations about things I never thought I would hear in a Theology class. He spurred us on with statements and points questioning the divinity of Christ. We would argue that those statements weren’t true. He would challenge us back to prove our reasoning that his statements weren’t true. “You’re just stating what you’ve been taught. Regurgitating information rather than believing what you’re saying,” he cajoled us in one class period. “Think about what you believe. Make sure you believe what you’re saying. If you don’t, dig even deeper and find out why.” Soon, members of the class were bringing in other materials to prove their points. Books, audio recordings, magazine articles – nothing was out-of-bounds. At the end of the quarter, we took a “final” exam on the quarter on the material. There were questions on who played what role, what was the significance of a particular moment in the rock opera, and how did it differ from what we’ve been taught from the Bible. The very last question asked if we believed what we had been taught, and how did that play a part in our daily lives? The following year, our senior year, we were asked to go to local hospitals, nursing homes, and elementary schools to help out within our local community – Shreveport, Louisiana. We were excused from classes to be able to do this. It wasn’t until years later that I realized that this question was the crux of that performative duty. Anyways…

I answered the last question in a manner in which I received a “wrong answer” notation, along with a request to see the instructor after school was let out for the day. I was not happy with this, since it meant that I couldn’t spend another forty-five minutes playing on the new Apple ][ computers that had been installed in our computer studies classroom. But I knew that not following the request would result in a phone call to my father that I had not followed an instructor’s request, which quickly lead to a punishment that I didn’t want. I came to my instructor’s classroom, and he asked me to sit in the front row. As I sat down, he quietly closed the door and sat in the desk next to mine. “You’re answer on the last question of the exam,” he stated quietly. “Why?” I explained my reasoning. I didn’t want to answer a question that had me claiming a belief that I did not have. I didn’t believe in the divinity of Jesus ben Joseph. I didn’t even believe in the correctness of the Catholic faith. “You attend the monthly service. You could always stay back in the library with the other non-Catholic students instead.” I explained how I found the Mass to be a beautiful ceremony that depicted much of the symbology of what I had been taught in the Theology classes. I enjoyed the beauty of the ritual, even if I didn’t agree with what was being depicted. “What do you believe?” This was the toughest question to answer. I wasn’t sure. I knew that it had something to do with the outside. The beauty of the woods. The serenity of the wind blowing through the leaves of the trees. The feeling of the sun’s warmth on my face. The sting of cold rain driven into my face by a winter’s storm. To me, being outside was that serene feeling that I had heard several of my classmates express about being in Mass. I didn’t feel that in Mass. I felt that every time I was outside. When I finished, he stood up and held his hand out to me. I took it and he provided a very warm, friendly handshake. “I hope you find that somewhere Tommy.” I was quietly ushered out of the classroom, and he thanked me for coming to talk with him.

It took another three years before I found what I was looking for. Even when I found it, I continued to question its “rightness” and “appropriateness” in my life. I utilized some of the critical thinking skills I had attained within that class. Did I believe what was being said? Did it fit within my heart? Did it resonate in my mind as being a complete fit to what I knew about the world? Could I find something that eroded the foundation of what I believed? Most importantly, did any of this make the world come alive for me? The answers are self-evident. I’m now on my (counting on my fingers – and breaking out the calculator when I fail at it) thirty-sixth year on my Pagan Path. I’ve been on my Path longer than I had been alive at that moment in my Junior year of High School (I was seventeen). I’ve seen a lot in all of that time. Good groups, bad groups. Good leaders, bad leaders. Learning how to walk my Path alone. Encountering the Gods (and being scared shitless when I figured out what I had stumbled upon). I’ve been ridiculed over my beliefs. I’ve even been physically beaten because I’m not a Christian. I’ve been ostracized by others, simply because I didn’t believe as they did. Through all of that, I’ve remained a Pagan because it is what I believe. It is my approach to the world around me. It permeates who and what I am. But I would never force my belief and understanding on to anyone else. Because in that 1983 Theology class, I learned that not everyone believes the same way. That the best approach is to be happy for someone that has found a system of belief that provides them with an understanding of the world around them. Because it is best to show kindness to others, even when they don’t show you kindness.

As I said that year was formative to who I am today. I learned about myself – through music, through books, through others – and through that class. I’m not the best person in the world. Nine Hells, I’m not even the best person that I can be. But I try my best. Some days, that’s not enough. Other days, its more than I could ever fathom. In the end, it all evens out. All I can do is hope that I touch the lives of others in as positive a light that I can manage for the moment. ::smile::

–Tommy /|\

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: I Want All Of It To Happen Again

I’ve talked a lot about how I see the short-term future for the split dynamic of group v. solo within Paganism. I’m not really trying to predict the future with these posts. Rather, I am looking to discuss some of the trends I have noticed over the past few years and draw potential conclusions. I present all of that here, as my own observations. Observations. Nothing more than that. I have noted in the previous posts that the data set that I am working with is human beings. Human beings, who can completely change perspective, actions, understandings, perceptions, and make wildly varied choices on a whim. Attempting to predict any of that is akin to predicting National Football League games and bet against the Las Vegas gambling spread. There are so many moving variables in play, that accurate forecasting of any sort of behavior can certainly be deemed as “folly” at its very best.

The direction I am about to take is on even more fraught ground. I want to discuss Pagan community and public events, especially against the backdrop of today’s COVID environment. We are now entering our third year with this virus. A virus which is not only deadly but can also have extremely acute repercussions to the health of those that survive it. It is very understandable why so many public and private Pagan gatherings have cancelled or re-scheduled during that time frame. Now, with the new Omicron variant being far easier to contract, as well as its apparent brushing aside of the protections from vaccines, boosters, and the cloth masks that we have all used for so long – well, you get the picture. Seemingly, we’re headed towards even more lockdowns, government regulations, and a rising tide of individuals headed for hospitalization, where wards are still crowded with patients from the previous wave. All that plays into where we are today.

But even before this viral outbreak, Pagan events seemed to be on shaky ground, especially the conventions. Probably the biggest convention name to pull out of yearly events was Pantheacon. I’ve been three times (three years in a row). Held over a weekend in a hotel near the San Jose airport, it was a widely attended convention. A nice cross-section of the Pagan community could be found there. Many authors and other widely known Pagans came in and gave talks (usually more than one) on so many topics. Pagan musicians would play little mini-concerts, and many Pagans and groups held very elaborate (and well attended) public rituals. The year after my last time there, Pantheacon announced that it would be their last, citing rising costs, lowered numbers of volunteers to help run the event, and burn-out by its core group of people as the primary reasons for shuttering the event. I have watched various smaller annual events in my own region pull back for similar reasons, as well as COVID. Many public rituals have cancelled or rescheduled their commitments, much to the disappointment of many Pagan-folk that were willing to attend the events under strict COVID protocols.

Many events and conferences have turned to an online format to handle their scheduling. Seemingly, this has worked well, though I can’t honestly say that I am aware of it being good or bad. I have yet to attend a single event held in this online format. So, I can’t really judge what its like. However, I know that this type of format doesn’t quench my need for the face-to-face interaction with others that I have encountered with others. I have attended a few online professional conferences, which were created to handle the same issues concerning COVID that the Pagan conferences and events have dealt with. I can honestly say, the networking side of things – one of the primary, unspoken functions of those professional conferences – is just not there. I imagine the same can be said for the online formats for Pagan conferences, rituals, and such.

What shape do Pagan functions take going into the future? This is hard to pin down. I can see many of the Pagan conferences headed to the online route. The online format can be pricey, but not nearly as pricey as running a conference that essentially takes over an entire hotel. That format seems likely to expand and be much larger going into the future. What about Pagan Pride Day events and other similar functions such as Witchstocks, Witchfests, and what not? As I noted, this is harder to pin down. Much of these “festivals” are geared around sales by various vendors. If Pagans decided to not attend these events because of COVID, that would drive down the sales of the vendors – much of whom drive the presence of such events. No attendance would essentially shutter such events. If COVID were to persist beyond where we are at now, as a collective society, I can see many of these events shuttering on a permanent basis. Let me be perfectly frank here, if our collective Pagan community stopped purchasing items from Pagan vendors – there would be far fewer Pagan vendors available. I really hate to tout the power of currency to keep a public aspect of the wider community alive – but its true. If our collective communities embrace online events in favor of other delivery methods, we are also going to need to embrace the online presence of those selling items to the Pagan community.

What about the public rituals that get held in various locations, including – but not limited to – Unitarian churches? Here, I see the potential for large, unlimited growth – particularly if the larger public rituals and events change their attendance aspects in favor of online. I think you might see small Pagan events being held at such smaller locations – with some of these events limiting the number of participants to stay within prescribed COVID limitations as set by federal organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Yes, I believe that Paganism will remain far decentralized when it comes to public events. At least, that’s the tea leaves as I read them.

As I noted, this area of the Pagan community is difficult to read, simply because human beings are involved. With COVID spiraling the way that it currently is, I can feel the Pagan Community having to find new online avenues to reconnect with one another – even if we live only a few blocks or miles apart. After all, we have families and ourselves to protect with this virus spreading its havoc. I’m not sure if anyone else finds this “forced” online interaction methodology to be inadequate, but I do. I find it limiting, and it feels quite impersonal. Yes, that’s an odd statement from someone who makes his living within Information Technology. But it certainly is how I feel. I crave that face-to-face interaction. Seeing people’s smiles. Hearing the inflection in their voices. The feel of their touch as we talk, laugh, and enjoy one another’s company. To me, that’s not just the future. It’s the present as well. It’s the past. I miss the interactions at Pantheacon. The giant bear hug I got from Kristoffer Hughes when I was headed to the airport for my flight back. The handshakes and hugs I got from all the OBOD members at the last Gulf Coast Gathering, as we all got ready to leave Louisiana and head back to our respective homes. Those moments were the pinnacle of those events. I sincerely hope that we get back to all of that soon. In the meantime, we must stay safe. So, all of that can happen again.

–Tommy /|\

Photo by Akil Mazumder 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

Thinking About: I Have Hope

Every year, right around this time, I watch as angry and hurt Pagans climb to the top of the virtual fence-line we have and shout their obscenities at the Christian folk out there. Thirty-plus years folks…seen it every year. Nine Hells, I did it for the first ten or so years of my Pagan Path too. Many folks will think I am pointing a finger at them, but rest assured – if you feel that way, know that I am swinging that finger around to point at myself as well. I’m no more immune from throwing my hurt and anger at the more radical elements of the Christian faith while shaking my fist at them. There’s plenty of anger to fire at those, whose radical element would prefer me dead or injured for not following their Path. Besides that, anger is the easier emotion to reach for – so strong, so emotive, so easy to embrace.

Right around twenty-four years ago, I stepped into the wider culture of the Grateful Dead. I know, you’re looking at me cross-eyed – wondering where this is going. But it has a place in what I want to write about tonight. The counterculture of the Grateful Dead and the various “jam Bands” out there is well known. Well, its mostly known for all the weed smokers and the more nefarious drugs espoused within the devotees of the band. But, if you peel back the drugs and look deeper within the subculture contained deeper in, you will find a philosophy that is somewhat like the perspective of the Wiccan Rede. Its more of a philosophy of kindness and being helpful to others. That a community based on these attitudes is one that is strong, protective, and available to anyone that wishes to practice the precepts of kindness, caring, giving, and unconditionally love to others. It didn’t take me long to immerse myself within these thoughts and perspectives. It took even less time for me to encompass all of this as the core values of my Druidry. Yes, all because of the subculture of a band’s fans. The world certainly does work in mysterious methods.

With all of that now splayed out to be the primal focus, I now wheel back to what I started with – the anger and desire for retribution towards the Christian faith. Retribution for burning Witches at the stake. Retribution for those pressed to death in Salem. Retribution for the disgusting attacks on family units during the Satanic Panic. Retribution for those who lost their jobs because they refused to hide their personal beliefs. And all the anger that followed in the wake of each of those moments in time and history. Believe me, I understand the anger. I grok the rage that accompanies it. I comprehend the usage of this time of the year as a focal emphasis to bring home the point: we have a right to be who we are without retribution and fear.

What we don’t have a right to put into motion is to bring all the emotional attacks back to bear on the Christians. We don’t have a right to set and sow fear among the Christians. Sure, I get that people want to do these things – to get even. To let them feel an ounce of the terror that other Pagans have felt – as well as those who weren’t Pagans but were caught up in the terrorization because of a greed for property or a desire to hurt others because they are different. I understand all of that. But retribution will begat retribution – a terrible vicious cycle that grows with each attack on the other side. Each attack fueling the next moment of retribution. Each moment of retribution stoking the fires of anger and hate, destined to never stop until one side obliterates the other. All in the name of removing differences and destroying individuality. We see much the same in America’s political scene today, but that’s a parallel conversation for another time.

As in every aspect of my own personal opinion – there are those that will disagree with me. Some will even call me a traitor to the Pagan faiths. I’ve had liberal-minded say as much when I point out that the right-wing is moving on their convictions of what is right and wrong for this country – though I do believe some of the far right-wing folks might be seeing how damaging their posture has been. Not many, but there are a few out there. I’ve met them. I’ve talked with them. We’ve taken the time to exhange hugs and hand-shakes. They do exist.

I don’t agree with the Christian faith’s perspective of “baptism and a new shirt or death.” But I do believe the Christians that readily reach out with a hand, asking for there to be peace and understanding between Christians non-Christians alike. They don’t believe as I do, but they do believe in being caring, helpful, and loving to their fellow human beings – yes, even the non-Christians. Yet, even these Christians wind up being targets.

What we hear declared every year is that “there is a war on Christmas.” This is particularly amplified by right-wing media “infotainment” hosts. Mostly individuals who have no respect for those who have a different faith, a different perspective on how they interact with their environment and those who are their neighbors. Twenty-four years in the past, I got angry when all of this would take place. Now…I get sad instead. My ideal world is one where I can shake someone’s hand as we greet one another…regardless of our differences. I’ve always felt that a world filled with people who are kind to one another because it’s the right thing – not only because some disaster happened – is where I want to live. I know none of that is going to happen overnight – and most likely not within the short time I have left in this incarnation. But I have hope for some day to be that reality.

–Tommy /|\

Thinking About: Music is One of the Backdrops To My Daily Life

Another Sunday morning. Today is a clear blue sky, in contrast to yesterday’s somewhat cloudy day. Just a reminder how quickly the weather can make changes to the backdrop of each day. Especially now in these days of what feels like an accelerated Fall. The trees are quickly shedding their leaves, while the temperatures play a roller coaster ride of cold at night followed by unseasonable warm during the day. But that’s a normal chaotic weather pattern for Tejas at this time of the year. I recall Novembers in the past with snowfall of two to three inches (significant measurement for Tejas) and Yule temps close to the nineties (sometimes in the same calendar year).

Like most folks, I have lived elsewhere in my lifetime. Germany, England, Alabama, Louisiana, and a wide variety of other places that are small footnotes in my mind. Each had their own weather patterns. Each provided a unique experience within my life. Each have deep memories that are played against the backdrop of those chaotic weather patterns.

There are always two backdrops for my daily life – the weather and the music playing in the background. Daily observation of my surroundings provides my connection with the weather. Music, on the other hand, comes from my extensive collection of artists, typically plied through my (now ancient) Bose headphones.

Music is a constant and consistent passion for me. I adore excellent musicianship in whatever form it comes in. Though I do admit that I have never what I would consider to be quality musicianship within the rap genre. I consider that to be more of a personal taste thing than anything else though. When I was much younger I was enthralled with the raw stylings of the up-and-coming genre of thrash metal. The sound was raw, primal, strong, brash, and loud. I can easily recall the beginnings of Metallica, the earliest pieces from Mercyful Fate, the original EP from Slayer, the earliest effort of Exodus, Cirith Ungol, and so many others. Plus, there the bands that never made it big – Highway Chile, Dissident Beast, and many, many more. I remember how exciting it was to find an artist I had never heard and playing their recordings for the first time.

Eventually, I stumbled across the genre of “Progressive Rock” which encompassed artists such as Rush, The Shy, Eloy, Yes, Asia, and so many others. The focus was on the musicianship, which had me marveling at the abilities of Neil Peart, geddy Lee, Chris Squire, Alex Lifeson, Steve Howe, and so many others. As I noted before, I am always excited by the technical wizardry of so many musicians.

Eventually, over the years, I was exposed to artists that fit what some call “Pagan music.” Much of it is in the vein of the more modern 1990s singer/song-writer element, which encompasses areas of rock, folk, celtic, and other genres with a stronger emphasis on Pagan or Goddess themed lyrics. My snobbery on good musicianship continues to pull me in this area as well. From Wendy Rule’s ethereal voice to the excellent musicianship as group showcased by Spiral Dance to the great songs by Jim Faupel and the awesome tones of Kiva, along with the fun and playful measures of Barefoot Bran – there’s a lot to like for me to enjoy within this so-called genre.

Some Pagans I know look for artists that will help accentuate their public rituals. I grok what they are looking for and they why behind it, but none of that drives what I need from music. Music is the background of my daily life. Right now, for example, I am listening to Christian artist Amy Grant’s “Carry You” from a 1998 Christian artist compilation. I know there are folks that will look at that as blasphemy or as “not being a Pagan.” All I can do is shrug and keep typing. As I noted, I look for music that heightens and enhances my day. My library has thousands of songs from all areas of music. All of it is digital in format, so I can play it directly from my computer. In terms of size, I have approximately 395 gb of music. A large portion of that is audience recording of the Grateful Dead and various iterations of the band (The Dead, The Other Ones, Dead & Company, The jerry Garcia Band, Phil Lesh & Friends, The Mickey Hart Band, etc). I freely admit that I love the Grateful Dead’s music…it provides inspiration throughout my day. On top of that, I know that the Grateful Dead is not everyone’s cup of tea. So I rarely will espouse them as “the greatest music of all-time” – with the exception of what I listen to.

Music, for me, is that background that is always there. It’s the soundtrack of my daily life. There are memories tied up in the music I listen to. Some good, some awesome, some…not so much. I don’t utilize music, recorded or not, in my rituals. For me, it’s a touch of a distraction, but like I noted – I know people who do. It works for them. Just like I find no realistic value in rap music. I know those who do find value and entertainment in that genre. It works for them. It provides something with a strong purpose and calls to their soul – that’s what matters most. Not what I think about it. I listen to the music that calls to my soul, to the music that provides me with the extra push I need to get through writing something, to the music that adds an extra push to my daily routines, to the music that stirs my emotions. That may not be why you listen to music…and that’s perfectly find and absolutely all right. I can only provide why music is a driving force within my daily life. I can only posit what it might mean to others. And likely, I’d be dead wrong. Each person would need to explain what it means to them…and only if they desired to do so. There should never be judgment in our individual musical tastes, at least in my opinion. #TwoQuid

–Tommy /|\

Thinking About: The Last Year

As we are approaching the end of another Julian calendar, there is a time to reflect on the past year. Many folks take the time here at the end of the year to look at the happenings of the past year through a different lens. I’m not different. Around the time of Samhain, I spend time reflecting on where my personal Spirituality has gone through another turn of the Wheel. Here at the end of the year, I look at more secular points. A lot of Pagans that I know don’t try to separate their daily Spirituality from the happenings of the world around them. I’m not part of that type of thinking, though I do understand that everything mixes and blends around the edges. The following is my perspective of the last year from my own eyes.

January was an odd time frame for me. Early in the month came the Capitol House invasion. Or riot. Or takeover. Or coup d’état. Whatever manner you want to frame the happenings over the election. Never in my lifetime would I dream that there would be a sizeable element of the US citizenry that would want to dispose of the way our country operates its election process – much less for a man that completely disregarded the document and principles he swore to uphold and defend on his own election four years prior. As an eight-year veteran of the US Armed Forces, I took a similar oath when I chose to wear the uniform in service to this country. And while I am no longer a member of the US military, its an oath that I’ve never set aside. I was appalled and disgusted by those that went into the halls of Congress, seeking to disrupt the election process that was underway on that day, and sought out to detain members of Congress for “perceived crimes.” Some even had the desire to injure or kill those members of Congress. Their looting of Congressional offices has left a taste of disgust in my mouth, particularly where their right to freedom of speech and protest is concerned. There is protest…and then there was outright acts of sedition on their part. Its not difficult to see where I stand on all of this. I’m just one single individual though.

January also saw major changes in my personal life. Some aspects were for the better. Some have affected my own health, which has not been the greatest throughout the year. I am not the person I was two years ago or even five years ago. But I do try my best. Even during the continued up and down trending of COVID-19. Sadly, my state’s governor – the inept Greg Abbott – continues to make a mockery of keeping people safe, simply so he can tweak the current President’s nose on the issue. Again, I’m one vote in a state that traditional votes Republican. Still, I do what I have to with my vote – I continue to vote my conscience on issues, which means Greg will never get my vote. Not because he’s a Republican. I could care less about what political party he is part of. Rather, its because he continually makes policy decisions based on what will get his popularity to rise. The rumor is that he is readying for a run at the Presidency. If former President Trump runs as well, I look forward to the personal attacks that Trump will level against Greg – just as Trump did against another Texas politician in Trumps’ first election – Senator Ted Cruz.

During the start of the Delta variant’s rise, I took a vacation to southwest Colorado. It was a trip I needed to take. I had a desire to revisit the exact site that I had my moment with Crow on a particular trail. Unfortunately, that trail, as well as that area of the Mesa Verde National Park, was closed. So, I decided to walk a different trail that was open. The trail was beautiful, and I could get a strong sense of the Spirits of Place that inhabit large areas of the Park. Unfortunately, my health issues complicated my walk of a trail that was a steep incline down, and a steep incline up. The severe climb up from the location of the cliff dwelling at the center of the trail caused my breathing issues to flare up to an alarming level. I believed this to be a severe flare up of my asthma that I had developed from my bout with pneumonia after the trip to Iceland a few years ago. Instead, its an indicator that I am starting to have heart-related issues, such as what my father passed away from quite a while back. The ailment is referred to medically as Tachycardia, which has symptoms such as shortness of breath and dizziness that result from a rise in rapid heart rate. That, coupled with my High Blood Pressure, has had my cardiologist add some medications to my already growing pharmacy that I take daily. I have also been told to exercise lightly for the time being, as well as severely cut back my salt intake. As I noted, health issues are a primary issue that has changed this calendar year for me.

Lastly, I have decided to go back for another degree (this will be my fourth). I am working on a Bachelor of Science in Data Analytics and Data Management, in order to upgrade my base-level knowledge and update my skill sets in the field of Data Analysis. My first class started just a few days ago. While I know most of the techniques and applied concepts for my field, I have never had formal training nor am I conversant in the terminology utilized within the field. That is the reason I am focusing on this degree – to bring myself up to speed. Part of the degree program adds certification in the field. I have always eschewed certifications, viewing education to be more important. Unfortunately, certifications are the first weed-out point for job applicants – a process that has likely cost me more than one chance at a job interview.

I continue to progress in my Ovate lessons. I do need to backtrack a bit and set things right according to the lesson instructions, but I continue to make my weekly progress in both my Druidry lessons, as well as in my daily Spirituality.

There’s a lot more to note for the year, but all of that belongs in my personal journals – not out here on the blog. I am willing to share parts of my daily life out here, but there are things that should remain private, as well as correspondence that I manage daily with a few folks. 😊I have shared some of my thoughts…but not everything. A guy’s got to have some secrets from the world.

–Tommy /|\

Thinking About: My Gratitude Ritual in mid-December

December 1992. Kaiserslautern, Germany. It was my third December overseas in my Air Force career. My third December as a solo Pagan. It was the first December since I had appeared in an October 31st center-piece entitled “Practicing Pagans” in the Stars and Stripes newspaper, which was delivered throughout the European Military command. While I knew several Pagans, Wiccans, Heathens, and Ceremonial Magicians in the K-town (The US military’s affectionate nickname for Kaiserslautern), I had never felt more alone than I did on that mid-December night. My face was known to many I had never met after that article release. I had been verbally assaulted several times in public, and physically attacked in the Sembach Air Base Post Office on an early morning after my work shift. I didn’t have the loving arms of the Wiccan coven that I had started out on my Pagan path to turn to. Dallas, Texas was a long, long away. I was very alone.

You’re not alone. You just need to find your footing on your own.

That voice in my head then reminded me that I was capable of being a Pagan on my own. I protested that I knew very little of how to handle a Wiccan ritual on my own. I was further reminded that Wicca was not my Path. It was a starting point. As for ritual, I could create what I needed, so long as suited me and came from the heart – that’s all that really mattered. That voice, as it turned out much, much later, was Coyote. I wasn’t being asked to align myself with Him. As I said, that comes much later – many years later. I was only being asked to pull up my big-boy pants and move forward on my own. Kill the pity party, and just get on with things.

I devised a small “ritual” – something that was easily duplicated, which I could alter as I need to. That first night was a cold one. Well below freezing with about a foot of snow on the ground. I lived in Kaiserslautern, down in the valley. I worked at a higher elevation at Sembach Air Base. Because of the snow, I had parked up the hill from the command-and-control facility that was my duty section, a small bunker under a large pile of rocks next to the football stadium. When the snow was heavy, the snowplows would not come down either of the steep hills that were on either side of the bunker’s entry point. It was a late-night shift change, and I walked through the snow to climb the hill to the parking lot at the top. There was a picnic table there. I did my small ritual here, hoping that someone sitting at a picnic table at 1am in the snow on a Saturday night would not attract the attention of the military police. I certainly didn’t need to be turned in for a psychiatric evaluation.

I had brought a red pillar candle with me in my backpack, along with a lighter that I used to start charcoal fires in the BBQ back at my residence in Vogelweh Housing. I sat down, lit the candle, and looked up at the bright, yellow moon. Nearly a full moon. I had wanted to do this under a full moon, but I wasn’t working that night, so this would be the closest I could manage. Back in Housing, there was no way I could do what I wanted without someone observing and potentially interfering. So here I was.

The entire “ritual” was simplistic and easy. I sat and went through the motions of drawing a circle in my mind, I called the four Quarters in my mind. I thanked the Moon for witnessing my rite. Then I sat there and went through everything that I was thankful for. Depending on the year – I have done this every year at the closest full moon to mid-December – my list of things to be thankful for has been super small or uber huge. But there’s always been a list. In later years, I did away with calling the Quarters and drawing a circle. I didn’t need or want a barrier between me and the rest of the world. Instead, I moved to calling for any of the Gods to come and watch over my rite – asking four times, once at each quarter. For me, this made a lot more sense than creating a circle, calling the Quarters, and establishing a barrier between me and “the big bad world” out there beyond.

Some will say that I am doing this too simplistically. Or that my form is a touch too raw in its form. Not polished enough was one term I’ve heard before. But I always felt like I was behind tall walls of a fortress calling out my gratitude to the Gods and Spirits who have been there but are now locked out of what I am doing. Basically, I felt I was shouting over the walls of the fortress to thank the very individuals I have pulled up the moat bridge and lowered the gates to keep out. To me, that didn’t have a feeling of gratitude to it. More like a frightened “thank you” being called over the wall. You know, a “thank you for not killing me” or some such perspective. As for “polished” – I’ve gone in for rituals that felt more like rehearsed plays. I prefer the raw, emotional aspect of the unrehearsed, but that’s just my choice.

The ritual or rite or whatever you want to call it, its simple. Simple is easy to remember. Simple is easy to prepare for. I don’t have to have the planets aligned, except the moon to be full. Even that is not a requirement more than it is a choice. The only real requirement is to place myself in a mindful state and remember every aspect of gratitude that I can recall. For those that I cannot recall, I typically end my remembering with a statement along the lines of: “…and thank you for all the things that I should recall as being grateful for but cannot. I am, after all, only human.”

What am I grateful for? I am grateful for all of my friends who have stuck with me through what turned out to be one of the most trying moments of my life. I am thankful for all the people who have passed out of my life and those who have entered into my life since last year. I am thankful to be alive…still. I am thankful and grateful to Coyote, Crow, and Abnoba for the guidance that Each has provided for me. I am thankful for Their patience. I am thankful and grateful for the abundance of choices that I have in my life. I would be so very lost without having choices to make. I am grateful for the chance to continue beyond the mistakes that I have made. I am thankful for having the chance to make those mistakes as well. I don’t learn without them.

If this inspires you to something similar, let me reiterate – you should create a ritual that works for you. Something you can do without any heavy thought or major preparation – unless that’s your kind of thing. Make it yours. Do what matters for you. Do the things that give it meaning for you. Whatever that is. Play music if that helps you. This year, I’ll be using a recording of Brooks and Dunn’s ‘Red Dirt Road” as part of mine. The song’s title has meaning for me and where I’ve come from. Some of the lyrics have strong meaning – even despite the overt Christian lyrics. Do what brings meaning to you…whatever that looks like. No judgment from me. And if you get judged for what you are doing…remember, its about what has meaning for you. A moment of gratitude is about what it means for you, not how others will perceive it. Be you. Be true to who you are and what you are. I’d give you a hug at this point if we talked about this face-to-face. But since this is a blog post and not a face-to-face conversation…just feel the hug. I’d goose you too…so long as you promise not slap me. 🙂

–Tommy /|\

Thinking About: I Prefer Being an Informal Teacher

“Why aren’t you teaching online Pagan classes like {x} or [y} are doing?”

::big sigh:: Every so often, I’ll get asked why I’m not teaching some kind of online class in Paganism. I hear this question at least twice per month. Nine times out of ten, I don’t really have much of an answer. When I do manage to give an answer, its never a really adequate one, or at least that’s the way I always feel. Going deeper into the reasoning, everything boils down to a few points – none of which seem to be absolutely convincing arguments.

You see, I spent three and a half years in the collegiate classroom as an adjunct instructor. I taught Introduction to Business Applications, which allowed me to talk about something I really enjoy: computers and the ways to use computers. I have nearly the same number of years working in the various parts of the Information Technology world as I do on a Pagan path. The computers beat the Pagan path by a mere year and a half. I have worked on mainframes, desktop systems, mobile systems of all sorts, and servers. I have fulfilled positions of maintenance, Help Desk (Levels I and II), Customer Service, Database operations, programming, Systems analysis, Data Specialist, Systems Administration, and even more functions than I can recall. When I got the chance to talk to folks about all of that, while supplying lesson material aimed towards teaching them what a system does and how to use the applications on the system – I was really within my element. Over the period of a semester, I would get to know my students better, so as to tailor parts of the course to the majors or emphasis that they were working on within their collegiate careers. Over that time, I even became something of a “father confessor” to some of the students, helping them with real-life issues that they encountered. I may have been a professor for a little more than 1,000 days, but I have never had a more exhilarating time within my entire career. As you can see, I can’t rely on the excuse that I am not a teacher. There is no doubt in my mind that I am.

Its not the technology or the platform that would give me pause to say no. After all, I’ve worked long enough in the technology field that new applications and hardware do not intimidate me. Otherwise, I would not have lasted long in my chosen career field. No, my two reasons are a bit different from that side of things.

In a way, my primary reason will sound…not appropriate to some ears. It has to with money. I have never felt “right” about accepting money from others. I know, I know. If I was teaching a class, I would be offering a service to others, and payment would be something that would be associated and expected for it. Except that accepting money for providing my perspective on how to be a Pagan…just doesn’t feel “right” to me. In a way, I see what I would provide as a perspective on Spirituality to be something that would be done around a campfire, while we all sip on drinks of our choice. At most, share a pint with me…and we would be even-steven. Sounds dumb, doesn’t it? But it really is a major hang up of mine when it comes to the idea of teaching Paganism to others.

Honestly, I’ve never been great about asking for money. Back when I was podcasting, I had a nearly two-year period where I was unemployed. I put a Paypal link up on the website for the podcast, which was basically asking if anyone felt moved enough to donate for the hosting services for the podcast, I would appreciate it. I think I said something about the Paypal link on two shows and never mentioned it again. Over the eight years of the show, I received one donation which helped to cover one and a half month of the hosting services. That was more than I ever expected to get. I used the monies completely on the hosting services, and still I felt guilty for having gotten it. Receiving monies has never been a strong point for me.

The other issue that I have over teaching simply comes from my personal belief that I am not ready to be a teacher within Paganism. The old adage that “when the student is ready, the teacher will arrive” goes in the other direction too – at least I think so. When the teacher is ready, the students will be there. Or maybe not. Perhaps, the teacher never really gets the chance to be completely ready. Maybe? I have never been completely sure about taking a single student under my wing. I’ve never seen myself as much of an expert to be able to fulfill the obligations and responsibilities of being a teacher. Perhaps that’s not really a lack of readiness and more of placing myself on a lower rung of confidence.

This is not the same struggle that I have with the terminology of being a Priest. Though there are some who would draw a correlation between the two. I am not struggling with the definitive aspects of being a teacher. My struggle comes more from not seeing myself as an expert or knowledgeable enough to be in such a position.

Now, with all that said, I know a few folks that are teaching their brand of Paganism on the internet. Whenever I get asked about such situations, I point students to these folks. Why? Because I respect their knowledge, their confidence, and yes – their expertise in teaching what they do. Would I take a class with any of them? Sadly, no. I think what they are doing is awesome, but my personal brand of Paganism is not the same as theirs. That doesn’t mean I think they are lousy at what they do – merely that our approach is different enough that I would spend a large part of my time adapting their foundations to my fit my own, and not get any value out of the rest of the material. However, like I said – its not saying that their stuff is so different that I wouldn’t recommend it. I think they do an awesome job. I really do.

With these two fundamental issues, I would have a really difficult time teaching to anyone via any forum or delivery system – save one. That would be the good old-fashioned deep-night discussion around a campfire. In that environment, I find myself at ease to talk about subjects, knowing that I am only espousing my perspective and opinion to others. No talk of compensation (unless you count a nice hug before we head off to our separate sleeping arrangements). I know. So weird to hear/read a Pagan that isn’t looking for compensation for what they provide to the community. The discussion wouldn’t be some kind of lecture hall, where I am set to the front like some kind of matter expert. Its just a night-time discussion around the fire. Nothing beyond that.

Perhaps my perspective tells you that I lack confidence. Maybe it even rubs against the grain and you view me as some kind of a snake-oil salesman. For me, I see my perspective as being something less than a teacher/mentor point of view, and more of a less formal discussion. I’ve always felt that the informal perspective is best. It places everyone on the same level, so we can see eye-to-eye.

–Tommy /|\

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Thinking About: To Group or Not to Group

“You hate Pagans working in groups, huh?”

“Being solo means that you aren’t understanding the correct way to do things.”

“You’re not a ‘good’ Pagan when you don’t have someone to mentor you along the way.”

“Working your Spirituality alone is the Path to doing things absolutely wrong.”

This is just some of the stuff I’ve heard over the last fifteen-plus years. When I run afoul of the Pagan-Groups-Mafia, some iteration of this gets thrown in my face. How I have no idea of how to be a Pagan because I don’t espouse group work is the only “correct” way to handle one’s Spirituality. I usually find this back-and-forth stuff to be unhelpful, at best. I will; however, reiterate one thing concerning all of this before I start scratching the surface a little harder: many of the group-oriented Pagans that I know are not in this category. Those that I have met that are a part of a Grove, Coven or what have you…they tend to be respectful, and sometimes inquisitive towards a non-group approach to a Spiritual path.

So why talk about this at all? If its such a minor derivative set of folks, why bring about this focus? Well, while folks like this are a minor sub-set, they are quite vocal, and can sometimes be quite aggressive towards solo Pagans. In a series of belief systems grouped together under a wide umbrella, that can be quite distressing to those that encounter those with such a strong zeal. What I offer here is not the quintessential “survival” manual for such moments. Instead, I am offering some of my own perspectives on what occurs, and a few tips on how I’ve dealt with these folks in the past.

HATING THOSE WORKING IN GROUPS

I have been accused of this numerous times, including in the very not-so-distant past. Truth be told…I have a hard time hating ANYBODY. It’s a super strong emotion that requires a lot of energy. I’m quite lazy by nature. So, I can’t work up the concept of hate towards anyone. You’re laughing, but I am quite serious. Its far easier for me (and more conducive to my own mental health) to just point myself to disagreeing with others’ perspectives and letting it sit there. If there’s a desire from across the way to escalate things further…I’ve found it easier to just walk away. Escalating the emotions involved is just not a direction I want to head. I disagree with group work – for me at this point in my own Spiritual path. However, I started by working in a coven. This was where I learned some of the basic basics that apply to Wicca, but also have a cross pollination into Druidry as well. None of that killed me, made me hate working in groups, or created a distrust of what others will say about Spiritual paths. In the past, I have counseled fledgling Pagans that finding a group dynamic that works for them will provide a more conducive environment to learning and understanding some of the basic fundamentals of what Paganism is about. If you have a desire to go the solo route later on, the material you learn in a group will be formative to designing elements of a solo practice. Groups are not something to hate or fear.

ON YOUR OWN

Well, there’s no real measure to say that you should spend [x] amount of time in a group. In fact, you don’t have to spend a single second in a group to achieve what you want. How hard doing it alone is depends on you and you alone. Looking back, I’m glad I got my basic foundation within the bounds of a group. However, I can understand if that doesn’t work for everyone. After all, we all process and understand information differently. What works for me will not necessarily work for someone else.

But what about the drama that goes with every group? The power struggles, the personality differences, the awkward dating issues within a group that ultimately arise? Well, I’ve been through all of that. Yes, a lot of that stuff sucks. And it’s a bad moment when it takes place. BUT….   That happens in any group. Even Christians go through these dynamics issues within their congregations. That’s a bad example…but its easiest to understand. I promise you, that shit takes place in military squadrons and commands. I’d even bet that you can find these dynamics playing out in a professional sports team, except that its kept behind the scenes to avoid bad publicity which generates even more drama with team management and ownership. Drama is going to happen no matter where you have people gathering together. I’m not going to offer advice how to get beyond the drama factor because…as I said…what works for one person does not necessarily work for another.

If you’re dedicated enough to work within a group, you will find ways to make the dynamic work. Trust me, a group dynamic is like a large polycule relationship. It takes just as much communication to make a group work as it does to make a polyamorous (or even a monogamous) relationship work.

GOING SOLO IS NOT ALWAYS THE ANSWER (NOR EASY)

You can go solo to get away from the difficult dynamics or if you prefer to be the sole individual in charge. But being solo has its own difficulties as well. You have no one to really bounce ideas off of. There’s a tendency to not have other Pagans to just socialize. Humans are naturally social creatures. Sometimes you have no choice but to go solo. You’re in a small town and are apparently the only Pagan for miles around. But if you do have the choice, think carefully about what you are wanting to do.

I live in a small “city” (Hillsboro is not a city no matter what it wants to claim) between the Dallas/Fort Worth area and the city of Waco. I am a solo Pagan on my own. The nearest Pagans to me are over an hour of driving (one-way) away. And those are the ones that I know of. I do most things on my own. The only interaction I tend to have with other Pagans is at an OBOD retreat in Louisiana, which hasn’t been held for the last two years because of COVID-19. Being a solo Pagan has been very lonely, except for the internet. But even internet friendships can only hold back the lonely feelings for so long. As I said, human beings are social creatures. Researching topics is a solo effort, which might be better (and provide a lot more information) when tasks are broken up between others. Plus group discussions on research always yields many different perspectives since there are more than just two eyes on the situation. Everything you have within a group will fall on a singular pair of shoulders – yours. That’s a lot more work than you think.

FINAL THOUGHTS

I get excoriated a lot because of my championing individuality within a Spiritual practice. The are a lot of folks that come to the assumption that I hate group-work and loathe the people that do group-work. However, they do so because they do not know where my Spiritual path started or how much group-work has been essential to my laying down and creating my own foundational aspects to my own Spiritual practice (ugh, I dislike that term). Instead of responding back in angry tones, bringing back the same hardcore angry energy, I’ve found its better to ground, center, and remain true to myself. Group work is not bad. Its not evil. Its not being spoon-fed material. Like any repository of knowledge, you get out of it what you put into it. But its not for everyone. And the only way that you will know if it is or isn’t…is to try it for yourself. For me, it was a critical part of me foundation later on my Spiritual path – as a solo Pagan. Again, its not bad or evil. Its just not for everyone.

–Tommy /|\

Thinking About: Too High, Much Too High

I’m writing this blog a day early, as I will be on the road on Thursday and the weekend. It just makes sense to me to write the three blog posts for the week at the same time. Don’t ask, its my insanity. 😉

The following showed up on Facebook as a November 15th memory from three years ago (2018). I thought this might be a good starting place for this blog post.

PM Q: Who do you count as a mentor?

Oh wow. Uhm, I’m not sure I can count anyone as a mentor nor would I want to curse them with that title or position within my life. A lot of that is placing them on pedestals, no matter how small or large, and that is just a lofty location I would not want to put anyone.

I do have folks that I consider to as influences in my life. Cat Treadwell, Nimue Brown, and Joanna van der Hoeven have all played roles in my growth as a Pagan and a Druid to this point in my life. Their books and blogs have served as starting points for discussions in my own life on topics that I needed to sort out. Kristoffer Hughes continues to be an inspiration on how to approach life with a zest and passion for the good stuff, in whatever form it can be found. And there are so many others that I could continue to name for one reason or another…essentially, if you are in my life, I draw a piece of my daily passion or a slice of growing from you…and I wouldn’t want it any other way. But none of these folks are mentors or folks that I look up to. Each of them are people I look in the eye…because to treat them any differently would be an injustice to what they have helped me to discover for myself – people are people. Besides I cannot get awesome hugs from them when they are so far above me…its far easier if we are standing toe-to-toe with one another. And hugs…are everything.

Me, 11/15/2018, Facebook

We’ve all watched the entire issue happen before, particularly if we know someone who became popular in the wider Pagan community. A person writes a book, gives a series of public talks, offers classes, publishes/creates music, or any other number of things – any of which catch the fancy of the wider Pagan community. That popularity elevates them to an unspoken status of being a “BNP” – a “Big Name Pagan.” Their elevated status places them in a position of being consider some kind of “hero” or “mentor” to others. When those BNPs attend public gatherings, people tend to treat what has been conveyed in a talk as some kind of “holy writ.”

I’ve known a handful of these “popular” Pagans over the years. Many never wanted to be elevated to any status that placed them over others. My first was the late Pattalee Glass-Koentop, the author of two books in the late 1980s/early 1990s with Llewellyn. She was my grandmother Priestess in the first Wiccan group I joined. She was co-owner (I believe) of a locally run Pagan bookshop in Grand Prairie, Texas called “Flight of the Phoenix.” I was stationed at Carswell Air Force Base in west Forth Worth, a fairly decent drive away (a little over an hour, as I recall). When I first met her, I had no idea that she had written a single book, much less two. I just knew she was the grandmother Priestess of the group I had joined, and that I could find Pagan books and music at her store. I always took the time to strike up a conversation with her, and she was very down-to-earth with me. When she finally noted that she had written two books, I purchased one and took it back to my dormitory room to read. When I returned, we struck up a conversation about the book. When we finished, she casually commented that she was pleased that I didn’t give her the “author treatment.” My reply basically noted that she was a human being just like anyone else. Besides, I noted that if I placed her on that pedestal, I couldn’t get a hug from her. Her saucy retort was that this was true, but I could look up her skirt. We both had a belly-laugh over that.

Over the years since then, I have encountered and befriended quite a few more Pagan authors, as well as those that some would refer to as BNPs. I’ve always found that these folks tend to be very aware of their infamous status and are always relieved when you treat them like anyone else. My experience has been that most folks don’t like the lofty heights that a pedestal or hero worship can place someone in. When I was podcasting, I ran into much the same issue…though not nearly the lofty heights that others may have encountered. Both of my podcasts never really took off, even though I put nearly a combined eleven years into that effort. I would surmise that my pedestal that I was offered would only be a few inches in height, but its not the height of the pedestal that seems to be the issue. It’s the matter of being held in a position of being “more important” than anyone else.

When I taught at the community college, I got some similar experience from various students over those three years. After my very first semester, I was determined to extinguish the attitude that I was unapproachable as a professor. That somehow, just accepting the role of professor in the classroom, made me better than my students. That was never true though. After that first semester, I started every first day of class by reminding the students that I was no expert in Information Technology. That the difference between myself and them was merely years of experience. The amount of experience doesn’t make one better than others. It merely means that I’ve done things in that discipline a lot more often than the student has done.

I’ve been the neophyte. I’ve been the student. I’ve been the inexperienced one. I’ve been the one doubting every new step because the environment is new and unfamiliar. And to be completely honest, every BNP that is out there – they’ve been in the same spot too. If they claim that they haven’t, they are being completely dishonest. No one crawls out of the womb with the knowledge of someone that has mastered a discipline. Mastery of a discipline takes a lot of study, a lot of hard work, a lot of experience, and a lot of mistakes. Everyone had the same starting location. Some learn faster and deeper than others. Its part of what makes us all different and individual.

I have my heroes – people that I look at and wish I had their talent. The late-Cliff Burton, the late-Randy Rhoads, the late-“Dimebag” Darrel Abbott, Joe Satriani, and many of the Pagan authors that I have met, as well as conversed with. But I don’t want to place them above me…any of them. I prefer them at eye level, which isn’t always possible. For example, Kristoffer Hughes TOWERS over me. I think I am just below being able to look him in the armpit. With that said, Kristoffer gives the most amazing hugs, where I get dangled a foot off the ground. These folks (and so many more) have touched my life in such profound ways. They are all heroes to me. They are all mentors to my living life the best that I can. But I don’t want to place any of them on a pedestal. I’m only 5’5”. 😊

Remember, all these Pagan folks that you read. All the Pagan folk whose music you purchase and listen to. All of us Pagan bloggers. We’re all people, just like you. I would almost bet the farm that all of them would prefer that you treat them like they were your neighbor, and you were just talking out by your respective driveways. I know I appreciate it when people do that to me – particularly when they tell me that they read my blog and are inspired by what I write. I don’t want to be placed on a pedestal. Besides, I’m scared of heights. No, really I am.

–Tommy /|\

Thinking About: Those Formative Years of My Pagan Approach in the US Air Force

Another veterans’ day is upon us. A day where all the fast-food joints around me will be offering free items for me to eat. My local coffee house is offering a free small coffee to thank me for my service. My local Whataburger is offering a small French-fries with any purchase. ::big sigh:: I won’t partake in any of the offers though. I’m not being unappreciative of the offer, its just that accepting free things for the eight years I spent in the military….is not something I am comfortable doing. I served eight years in the Air Force. Those years were formative in becoming the adult that I am now, as well as the Pagan that I am today.

It was the Air Force that taught me to do bulldog problems at the job to ensure that the part of the daily mission that my squadron was responsible for were completed in a timely manner. It was the Air Force that helped develop the troubleshooting skills that I have. It was the Air Force that taught me to use what I had on hand to get something working again and worry about repairing it later in the right way when I had the right materials on-hand. I violated more regulations than I care to admit to, just to ensure that things would work when the mission called for it. Because I know that lives could potentially be on the line. That work attitude has carried over into my professional life, not that it seems to ever be appreciated by those individuals that are in positions of authority above me.

In those same eight years, I was on the front lines of fighting for the rights of the Pagans of today in the military. When I was deployed overseas, it was the first time in my younger years of Paganism that I was on my own. No coven. No High Priest and High Priestess nudging me back on to the Path prescribed by the Tradition. I was on my own. My direction was my own choosing. For me, it was a scary and (often) very lonely time. Much of my free time was spent walking in the woods directly behind Kapaun Air Station. Thick woods, as tends to be the case throughout the wooded areas of Germany. Old woods. It was in these woods that I first encountered a Spirit of Place. Another moment that was jarring for a fledgling Pagan. A moment that has always stayed at the forefront of my memories. A moment that I still have dreams about. During the three years that I was stationed in Germany (Kaiserslautern Military Community), I learned more about being on my own with my personal Spiritual practice (I still detest the sound of this phrase). I did interface with other Pagans, but all of them came from very different perspectives from my own. At best, we were a confederation of individuals who all approached our Paganism in very different ways.

In those three years, I helped with approaching the Ramstein Air Base chaplaincy about allowing a Pagan group access to chapel space for the purpose of holding public ritual. Eventually, we were granted that privilege. However, some of the conversations were contentious with the Chaplain’s office. There were doubts about the legitimacy of what we believed. So, we pointed the chaplain’s to Circle Sanctuary in Wisconsin. Selena Fox (and others, I assume) helped calm the fears and doubts of the Chaplaincy. Our first night together for public ritual, turned out to be my next to last with these folks. A second ritual was held later on one of the Army Kaserne’s, but in a warehouse space. Over time, there occurred the typical power struggles, as well as one individual declaring all of the Pagans that had banded together as a “Wiccan coven under his control.” That led to a lot of us removing ourselves from the group – Pagans, a Santerian Priestess who had joined in solidarity, Wiccans of a different stripe from his, Druids, Ceremonial Magicians – so as not to be lumped into a category or affiliation of what we weren’t. About four months after this, I departed the Air Force and returned back to the United States.

Another military cause that I added myself to was petitioning the leadership at the Pentagon to allow for the terminology of “Pagan”, “Wiccan”, “Druid” – among others – to be placed on our dog tags. The purpose of placing your religious affiliation on your dog tags is to assist the Chaplain’s office for what rites to perform for you, in the event of your untimely death in battlefield conditions. When I originally joined the service in 1986, I was given a list of options to place on my dog-tags for religious affiliation. At that time, I wasn’t a Pagan, but that wasn’t an option. I chose “Other” because I didn’t know. Once I came to realize I was a Pagan, I found I couldn’t add my affiliation to a new set of dog-tags. Pagans were not the only ones that were approaching the Pentagon leadership over a need to change this engraved line on the dog-tags. Eventually, the military service relented, and service members were allowed to provide that line with whatever affiliation they desired. When I left the military service, I surrendered my dog-tags at my final separation, ignorant of the fact that I could keep them if I had wanted. Thus, sadly, I do not have my “Pagan” dog-tags.

Looking back, the eight years of my life that I provided in service to the United States’ military were a mixed bag of success and failure. But the successes far outweigh the failures. I fondly remember a time where the members of the Pagan Support Group (what an awkward name we decided upon) helped clean a wooded area of Ramstein Air Base next to the on-base Burger King. We all rolled up our sleeves, put on gloves, and bagged trash for pickup. No fanfare. No advertisement of our efforts. Just pitching in and getting it done, so our local community had one less trash infested area. I can see the faces of so many people that I spent time with during those three years in Germany. I also recall the hard times at Carswell Air Force Base in Fort Worth, Texas, when I first became public about who I was. The times that my room was searched without announcement or when I was on-shift at my duty assignment. The way that my co-workers suddenly equated me with evil. How I was placed on a shift with three Evangelical preachers because no other shift wanted me working with them. The long interviews with members of the Office of Special Investigations. The threats of pulling my security clearance, which would have effectively ended my military career. Like I said, those eight years were a mixed bag.

My time in the Air Force helped me to grow up and become an adult. I was given responsibilities that helped me to understand that consequences always arise when you neglect the responsibilities that you have. Those eight years also taught me a lot about being solo in my Spiritual responsibilities. How difficult it can be to do things on your own. As well as how rewarding it can be to accomplish things through your own efforts.

I’m chuffed about the eight years I gave in service to this country. It might be a little tarnished compared to the stellar service and approach of others, but I don’t give a shit about that. I bent rules, broke laws, and improvised my way to ensure that the mission was accomplished. I am most proud that I always managed to make things work out, even if it was in the most unconventional manner. I can say the same about those early years of my Paganism. I started out in a coven environment with people I still – for the most part – still talk to today. They were there at the beginning. They will always be family for me. My three years overseas provided an avenue for me to do things on my own. To be able to walk the deep, thick forest on my own, off the beaten Path.

I do, occasionally, wonder how different my Paganism would be had I never been deployed to Germany in the early 1990s, away from the coven I was part of. Would I have stayed on a Wiccan Path? Would I have remained within a group? Would I have never found my way to doing things on my own? I’m never sure of what the answers to those questions would be, but that’s a what-if game that never really produces worthwhile results. I am who I am, what I am because of the experiences that I have had over the thirty-plus years I have been within Paganism. Certainly, I don’t fit the criteria of what some others believe I should be, as a Pagan or Druid, but these are my footsteps – not theirs.

–Tommy /|\

Me – USAF – July 1992

Thinking About: The Essence of Druidry (For Me)

As I move throughout each day, each week, each month, each year – I do my best to follow the mantra that Mickey Hart of the Grateful Dead stated at the end of the last concert for the band directly to the audience in attendance: “The feeling we have here – remember it, take it home and do some good with it. I’ll leave you with this: Please be kind.” Those final shows, at Chicago’s Soldier Field July 3rd, 4th, and 5th in 2015, were billed as “Fare Thee Well: Celebrating 50 Years of the Grateful Dead.” Coincidentally, I celebrated my 50th birthday a few months later. I livestreamed the July 4th and 5th shows. Later on, I purchased the (HUGE) USB drive of “30 Trips Around the Sun” which is described as “shaped like a gold lightning bolt with the Grateful Dead 50th anniversary logo engraved on the side. The drive includes all of the music from the collection in both FLAC (96/24) and MP3 formats and is an individually numbered limited edition of 1,000 copies.” Its is, by far, the largest USB drive I have ever owned, easily larger than my hand in physical size.

Anyways, focusing on what Mickey stated at the concert, I have always tried my best to follow that mantra – to always be kind. A few years ago, Cat Treadwell provided me with a button that sits on the only makeshift altar that I have. The button states: “Kind But Badass”. It is a constant reminder that my daily life is the only face that some people may ever see of me. Just that one, momentary glimpse. That this one momentary glimpse, this single interaction might be the only chance that those individuals ever have to see someone that is kind to them. They may not see a smiling face for the rest of the day. That this single interaction may the highlight of what is a rather shitty day for them. Whether I like the idea or not, I may be the difference in their day.

I deflect a lot of concepts of positivity away from myself. You’ll read a lot of it here on the blog. I’m not a teacher. I’m not a Priest. I’m no one special. I’ve constantly drawn those perspectives around me, like a warm, comforting blanket that I can wrap around myself. I can wrap that around myself like armor and deflect the praise that I get from others. I do this because I really do believe that I am nobody special. In my reality, I’m just a Druid making his way along his own daily Path. I’m not here to revolutionize Pagan thought. I’m not here to be some Big Name Pagan (BNP) that thrives off the adulation of others. I’ve been to a handful of Pagan conventions over the years – never as a presenter. I’ve been recognized by seven people over those years. Seven total. I’ve never been invited to present at a single event. I don’t fool myself into thinking I’m big shit. I’m just me. No one else.

Nearly every interaction I have had with other Pagans has been cordial. Nearly every discussion I have had with other Pagans, I have tried to steer into how they are doing. Not how I am doing. I wanted them to tell their story. Most of mine is here in the blog. For other people to read. Most of it. Its easy for people to read what I’ve gone through. I want to know what they are going through. I want to hear what they are thinking. If we ever get back to having the conventions again if you encounter me at one and strike up a conversation – just realize that’s where I am going to steer you. If we ever get to the point of having conventions again. And if I ever become gainfully employed again – so I can pay for such things.

For me, everyday interactions are an integral part of my Druidry. Rituals, spellwork, whatever else you can come up with from the more occult aspects – that stuff is ancillary. My Druidry is driven by the interactions that I have. Not just with people. I interact with the plants and animals around me as well. A lot of people wonder if I am daft when I start talking to their pets. I do that to acknowledge their individual presence as well. I talk with small kids. Why? Because interaction is important. It acknowledges one’s presence, as well as placing importance on their moment in that place and time.

Then there are the folks that want to spend that time interacting by discussing politics. When that happens, I tend to shut down and become quiet. Why? Because politics is not about people. Its about political parties. I have no interest in that shit. I grok that there are people who are totally ate up by that crap. I’m just not one of those people. The kindest approach I can utilize there…to just stay quiet and wait to focus on something else with those folks. Should they insist on staying on the approach…I’ll find a moment to politely excuse myself from that discussion and move on.

There are those that will accuse me of not caring enough about others because I try to avoid conflict. That’s not true, however. I see someone being abused in some manner by another – I’m not one to keep quiet about that. I will intervene on someone’s behalf. But for the most part, I do try to mind my own business until a line gets crossed. What line is that? I’m not totally sure, but I know it when I encounter it.

See, Druidry is about interaction with me. Its about experiencing the world around me. That moment on a trail in the woods becomes more than just a place to walk. The sounds of the wind blowing through the leaves and limbs of the tree. The songs the birds sing as they flit from trees to the ground to the sky above. The quiet around me, as I spot a fawn deeper in the woods searching a meal of berries from a bush. Or the sounds of the cars and trucks on the interstate just a little over a mile from the house. Or the sounds of the construction workers building the three houses just on the other side of my backyard fence. Or the sound of Doro Pesch singing “All We Are” though the speakers of my headphones while I type this. All of that, along with the knowledge that if I place myself in the exact same spot, at the exact same time tomorrow…all of those sounds and moments will be there to experience. All so similar, and yet all so different because every moment is unique. All of that comes from a quote from the movie ‘Troy”:

The gods envy us. They envy us because we’re mortal, because any moment may be our last. Everything is more beautiful because we’re doomed. You will never be lovelier than you are now. We will never be here again.

Achilles

Druidry, for me, is all of that – and so much more. So many moments, so many experiences that I cannot put into words that would make sense to anyone but me. Each of those experiences circle the idea of being kind to others. Because those moments of kindness are some of the most joyful that we can share with others, especially strangers that we may only see once. In line at the grocery store. Walking on the sidewalk in town. Those encounters have so much more impact than we might realize. A smile. A heartfelt “hello.” Just a simple kindness. An experience, a momentary encounter. That single moment where we are the most beautiful that we will ever be in our lives. That, for me, is the essence of my Druidry.

–Tommy /|\

Thinking About: Its Not Wrong, Its Just Wrong For Me

I’m not overly fond of Samhain and Beltane on the Wheel of the Year. Yep, you read that correctly. Beltane and Samhain are my least favorite times of the year. This has nothing to do with the darker side of Samhain. Likewise, it has nothing to do with the overtly sexual aspects of Beltane. These are the two perspectives that most people assume that I have issues in relation to the two celebrations. Rather, it has more to do with the baggage that so many folks seemingly carry into both celebrations.

For me, Summer Solstice is my favorite point on the Wheel. The height of Summer offers a moment where the gathering of people is something akin to a familial time. Of course, the same can be said about ANY point on the Wheel. Its more a consequence of the people that have gathered for that moment in time. Samhain and Beltane have slowly become the more public gatherings, or at least that’s what it seems to be. Thus, with loads more newcomers to the gathering, the atmosphere changes. Plus, Pagans are notoriously generous with alcohol, which seemingly gathers the frat-boy element – folks that are there for the free alcohol. Don’t try and talk me out of that point. I have seen it happen far too often over the last three decades to be dissuaded from it.

Now, before I get accused of being the stogy, crotchety old man who is trying to piss on everyone’s fun, let me point a few things out in my defense. Around the Gulf Coast Gatherings (OBOD), I’m known as a mischief-maker. Working with two Trickster Gods, one tends to find ways to provide a touch of chaos here and there – all in good fun. So long as no one gets hurt, everything is good. Should someone get hurt (emotionally, physically, etc etc), all the play stops, and serious moments of apology and accepting responsibility for going too far will happen. This is me. But despite all of the playfulness, there are always two things that I try to keep at the forefront during such gatherings (public or private): the ritual is a serious moment, and we are gathered together as a form of extended family. Connecting with others is paramount.

Perhaps, as I look back over what I have written, the issues are just my own. Perhaps the baggage that is carried into this comes solely from me. In fact, I would posit that this is precisely true in both cases. After all, I’m the jack-ass writing this blog post, right? Sure, I’ll cop to that pair of points. What I have written here is my own perspective. Its my opinion, and I am well aware that it is not a popular one – even before I stated it. For so many folks, these two points on the wheel are their quintessential aspects of their Paganism. Drawn to the “free love” and openness of caring and cherishing others, Beltane makes perfect sense to be that moment of revelry. Drawn to the darker nature of Pagan thought, Samhain provides that moment where folks can be far more open about their darker practices. I completely grok all of that. I just wish that both points on the Wheel were not regarded in a carnivalesque atmosphere by so many. But as I have acknowledged, this is probably just me.

An excellent point was made in the comments to a previous post. Perhaps, the reason for the overt boisterousness related to these two points comes from the baggage people bring from their Christian past. With its proximity to Easter, Beltane serves as a quick jab of two fingers into the eyes of a Christian past. Samhain showcases the embrace to the darker (and more shunned) aspects of Spirituality, thus jabbing two fingers into the eyes of Christianity again. Or, if the imagery is better, flying the bird to a Spiritual perspective that was forced onto the lives of others. That’s understandable, particularly in the earliest steps on one’s new Path. You want to turn and shout back: “This way is far better than the one I just left! The path suits my feet far better!” Trust me, I felt the same when I left a Catholic faith that had been ingrained into me through private schools from the 6th grade to my Senior year in high school. Catholicism was not a proper Path for me. My first steps into other Spiritual Paths was always punctuated with some statement that this new Path felt more comfortable than the previous one. I even felt that way when I started down my Pagan Path and made similar statements. My first High Priestess quietly made the comment to me that I would stop making such proclamations the further I trod my Path. That statement has definitely turned to truth, as I don’t see my current Path as being better or more superior to any other. The individual finds the relevance in the Path. The Path does not impart the same wisdom to every individual.

So, do I have issues with Beltane and Samhain? Or are my issues with the manner in which others approach these two particular points on the Wheel? Most likely, it’s a little of both. Which means that my dislike is more of a difference between how I approach these two seasonal points versus that of others. And that, can be perceived as wrong on my part. Its wrong for me to look upon the practices of others when it comes to how they approach their own Paganism. Its ok for me to dislike those approaches, but its not ok for me to call those approaches “wrong.” Instead, its far more appropriate for me to do what I have done in the past – step away from the carnivalesque atmosphere, and handle things on my own, for me. I strive to approach my Spirituality for the perspective of an individual. Painting with that brush onto others is not the approach I wish to take. So, I have to admit that I have been wrong in seeing the popular approaches to public ritual at Beltane and Samhain as something that should be seen as distasteful. Its not for me, that’s for sure. But its not for me to judge such approaches as wrong. Its just wrong….for me. Maybe, I am that crotchety old man yelling at the kids to get off my lawn. ::shrug::

–Tommy /|\

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Thinking About: Samhain, My Perspective

Well, the time of trick or treating is upon us. This year, the day falls on a weekend (A Sunday), so my local area communities have been shifting the time frame to tonight (Saturday). Plus, its not being called “Halloween” but carries colorful names such as ‘Trunk or Treat” or “Autumn Fest” or “Fall Fest”. Yeah, the right-wing Christian community has that typical knee-jerk reaction to this time of year. The Chick tracts start reappearing. The darker time of the Wheel is starting to approach. Which leads me to a small side thought…do we have to view the Year in terms of a Wheel? I’ll come back to that in another post soon.

Samhain is that time of the year where I take a deep dive into where I am at this point in my journey. I take stock in where everything has gone over the last year, look at what needs to be addressed for the coming year, and make my plans accordingly. For me, this time of year is about putting things back on course – navigational corrections, if you will allow me the descriptive.

The last year didn’t go well for me. COVID-19 played a huge role in driving me to avoding people as a whole. A huge life change turned out to be something completely different from what I envisioned. Another year being unemployed and working one-off gigs has placed a lot of the mundane life on shaky ground. Much of what I had hoped to accomplish was placed into the background for the time being. Thus, this time seems to be a good place to bring everything back into focus, re-group, and determine what needs to be handled and how.

Probably the best way I can describe what this time of the year is for me is to compare it to a Project Management overview meeting. I have done my share of these kinds of meetings in my professional life, particularly in the Air Force. Essentially, a Project Manager, who is responsible for a project’s forward progress towards completion, will have scheduled “update” sessions with team and shift leaders at certain points. The point is to have discussions about where each part of the project is at, what obstacles have been encountered, and what resources/assistance is needed to accomplish tasks. Not every project stays on track, and occasionally its necessary to nudge it back into the correct path. I have found this process to be very helpful, even in my daily existence. After all, none of us are perfect, and things don’t always go as planned.

Samhain is also about more than sitting down and re-planning the course of my daily existence. There is a point of comparison that I can make as well. How much have I changed over the year? Not physically, but mentally and spiritually. What I look at is where my mindset is at. Last year, I decided to make a more concentrated effort to place local, state, national, and world politics as far back as I possibly could. Politics has an effect on all of us, whether we want to believe it or not. Its important to keep up with what is going on, so we can be informed citizens. However, it doesn’t need to be something that swarms our every waking moment, unless we want it to do so. Me? Not so much. I hold a dim view of political parties, especially when their actions seem to be geared more towards their needs rather than those of the citizenry. So, I made the decision to step away from politics, and concentrate my daily time and effort on to other things that held a higher importance to my daily life. For the most part, I feel I have done far better than I have in the past. I spent far less time railing about the inefficiencies and delusion of people hood-winked by President Trump. I spent far more time reading, learning, and getting outside. I found my mental health felt far better than before. That’s one – somewhat extreme – example of what I have done in this process.

So, delving deeper into what this time of year means to me – rather than the process of it. Samhain is a point of acknowledging transformation that has occurred, and planning for future changes. The weather is getting colder, so staying indoors is becoming more and more commonplace. The time of the year is getting darker and darker as well, as the days shorten. The ability to turn inwards is much easier. The seeds of transformation will grow in these deeper, darker times. The need to turn inward is becoming more and more insistent. Thus, this process is logical for me. For others, some of this might not seem to be so.

I have always acknowledged that I don’t approach my Paganism or Druidry or Spirituality as others do. My mindset is my own. I don’t always travel the commonly traveled paths. I don’t see the points of the Year in the same manner as many others. So, some of what I write here will be at odds with what others feel or point out. Honestly, for me, I am more than “ok” with that. I have a different view than others. I also don’t make claims to have the “right” or “correct” view on Paganism, Druidry, or personal Spirituality. No one has to do a single part of those in the same manner as me. I don’t create holy writs or claim to be an authority on Druidry, Paganism, or Spirituality…except where it pertains to me. I know there are those that rail against people doing their Spirituality, Paganism or Druidry on their own. I’m not one of those people. I think that you can do your own thing in your own way, so long as you don’t claim to have the “absolute truth” that everyone else MUST follow. So, I just ask that you remember that what I write here is my own approach, not some “gospel truth” for the masses.

Samhain is also a good timeframe for gathering with others. Just because I do much of my personal Spirituality alone doesn’t mean I don’t like the company of others or eschew group ritual or workings. I’m a human being. I am a social creature. Plus, I enjoy the company of other people. I’m not some moody, Gollum-like creature that sits in the shadows grumbling to itself about its hatred of others. While I have my own reservations about the hardcore revelry of Samhain and Beltane (a blog post for another time in the near future), I do acknowledge that this is a good time to build up the reserves of social interaction that I need to get through my solo times. Honestly, this is one of the reasons I enjoy giving out candy to the trick or treaters. Not only do I get to see the excitement in the faces of the costumed kids, I also get a few moments to acknowledge the trailing parents who are escorting the little ghouls and goblins on their candy retrieval quest. Samhain is a great time for brief social interaction. Or if you are attending some kind of adult costume party…a much longer time frame of social interaction.

There are a lot of things that Samhain can be. For me, it’s a period of time that lets me take a few moments to nudge my desired approach to Life back onto the rails. For others, it’s a time to revel in spooky-themed interaction with others. For others, there are a larger collection of reasons and needs during this time of the year – some of which I cannot even imagine or come to think of. We’re all individuals. We all have different needs and desires. My idea of a spooky time is to put Mercyful Fate, Exodus, King Diamond, and Slayer on the headphones, turn off the lights, and light a single candle. Listening to the music, I look at the candle’s flame and let the music move me to thoughts that come to life in the candle’s background. For others, they may turn off the lights, light a few candles in the room, and watch a marathon of the Halloween movies back-to-back. The possibilities are completely endless. It all depends on the individuals involved and the desired activity. How you spend your Samhain is solely up to you. There is no wrong way to do so. Make it meaningful in the way you need it to be. Whatever and however that looks.

–Tommy /|\

Photo by Anugrah Lohiya on Pexels.com

Thinking About: Just Being Me

What should I write on? My earlier effort on this turned into a bitchy tirade that I eventually abandoned. Looking out the window on the back-yard patio door, the sky is cloudy, and the threat of rain within the high humidity shows in the darkening grey. for all intents and purposes, its the perfect day to sit and sulk on woes and angst. I’m now into another year of being unemployed and seeking temporary one-off gigs. Yet, I sit here with a happy grin on my face. My mood is up-beat. Maybe its the morning coffee. Maybe its the fact that I am listening to REO Speedwagon’s “Hi infidelity” album – music that I associate with my early years of high school.

At fifty-six (Gods, I really am that old, huh?), I realize that the years ahead are far shorter in duration than the years in my wake. I’ve been on this Pagan path for almost four decades now. I’m far different than I was as the wide-eyed, naïve, neophyte that I was at the beginning. I’ve seen my share of in-fighting within the Pagan community. I survived the infamous “DFW Witch Wars” of the mid-1990s. At the beginning of my Pagan walk, I found myself in the middle of the scary times of the Satanic Panic of the 1980s, an “event” that seems to be making a comeback today within the Evangelical Christian community here in the United States. I cannot even begin to count the number of Pagans, Wiccans, Druids, Heathens, etc. etc. who have been a part of my life during that time and passed beyond for a variety of reasons. Somehow in all of that, I have managed to get three degrees, a Bachelor of Information Science, a Master of Information Systems Management, and a Master of Business Administration. I’ve been into and out of the United States Air Force, where I helped blaze a bit of the trail that the military Pagans of today walk. Through all of that, I still wonder what I need to do within the Pagan community.

I’ve mentioned – probably more frequently than many people care to hear – that I struggle with the perspective of being a Priest or even a casual reference to being an Elder within the Pagan community. However, whether I accept these descriptives as portraying who I am, there are others who do apply these to me. I cannot (and will not) control those perspectives in other people. While I might eschew these concepts in application towards me, the fact remains that some see me in these roles. Whether I want to accept it or not, being on this Path as long as I have will place me into these roles. Instead of pushing back against these, I can try to handle this in a different manner.

When I was in the Air Force and when I was promoted into the ranks of Non-Commissioned Officers (NCOs), I was provided with a mantle of responsibility that I always felt I was never really ready for. Part of my responsibilites was to supervise lower enlisted ranks in the discharge of their daily duties in the function of my duty section’s role within our Squadron and Air Wing. In essence, I was placed in charge of what needed to be done during my shift, and I was looked upon as the on-scene subject matter expert – even if I didn’t feel that I was any of that. Furthermore, I bristled at being referred to as “sir” by the lower ranks. As a matter of fact, I still despise being referred to in this manner. Despite my misgivings as being seen as a subject matter expert or being referred to in an approbatory manner, others (including commissioned Officers who were my superiors) saw me as being such and deserving of an affirmative perception.

So, whether I completely agree with the descriptives of Priest or Elder, there are aspects of these that others might place upon me – simply becuase I am where I am on this journey. Recently, I received an ordination with The Universal Life Church. Its not difficult. Its free. The purpose? Well, if I am needed to fulfill a function of being a Priest, I can do so. Like I said, whether I agree with the idea that I am a Priest – I am such. With the ordination, I can legally fulfill obligations if a more suitable individual is not available.

I am;however, other things as well. I am a Druid. Currently working through my Ovate lessons, but I am a Druid. Does that mean I wear white robes, climb ladders to cut mistletoe from trees with a sickle, and brew potions that provide other worldly strength to others? Well, I refuse to wear a white robe of any sort. While I grew up in the Air Force, many parts of that were spent living in the South-eastern United States. White robes are synonymous with the Ku Klux Klan. While I grok the usage of such robes within Druidry in Europe – and I also spent parts of my youth living there – I just cannot bring myself to wear a white robe. So, I can firmly push that part away from me, while I embrace my green cloak, black pants, tennis shoes, and Grateful Dead t-shirt as my ritual clothing. yeah, its not the most “mystical look” but then I’m going for comfort, not stage presence. Besides, I see ritual in a different light than as something that is meant for looks or to be “seen.” Ladders? No thanks. I have an irrational fear of heights. Besides, I like mistletoe to stay up in the trees. Brewing? That’s like cooking, isn’t it? Trust me, you don’t want to eat my cooking. I’m registered as a lethal weapon, in that regard. 😉

My point here is that I don’t really fall into the stereotypical thoughts of what a Pagan or a Druid is. But then, I think the stereotypical representation of a Pagan, Witch, or Druid from the 1980s (my reference point) no longer applies in this day and age. We are all individuals in our own right. There are those who feel the need to have the pointy hats that have long been associated with Witches. Plus, the striped knee-length socks/hose, and the all-black clothing. Cool. If that makes them feel comfortable, that’s awesome. I’ve had folks look at me with derision over my ritual attire. Its taken a long time, but I essentially ignore those looks. How I approach my Paganism is important to me…that’s what matters.

I guess, in reading back through all of this, my thought process falls along the lines of being an individual. In the early footsteps of being on one’s Pagan path, you will find yourself walking in the footsteps of someone else. Some Pagan that you think is “cool” or “right” in their approach. Honestly, there’s nothing wrong with doing that. Its the easiest manner to find something that makes you feel like “you.” Black lipstick, eye shadow and a micro-miniskirt with four-inch heels makes you feel like “you.” Well, do it. A green cloak, a Grateful Dead t-shirt, jeans, and tennis shoes makes you feel more connected when you are in ritual? Do it. Not sure what to do? Try things. If it doesn’t work for you, abandon it, and try something else. Just remember, in the end – its about being yourself. Clothing, makeup, shoes, hair color…none of that makes you who you are – unless you want it to. For me, its about comfort. For you, it could be something completely different. Don’t let anyone tell you how to be you – even me. 🙂 Just remember, exploring yourself on this Path of Spirituality isn’t just about growing yourself – there’s also basking in the beauty of everything around us. And finding happiness in being who you are. You’re beautiful.

–Tommy /|\

Thinking About: Quitting

Her: Have you ever thought about quitting?

Me:  Gods, yes. At least twice a day.

What am I quitting? Well, you name it. Anything. Everything. I’ve had that feeling in anything I’ve ever done. Jobs, programs, SQL queries, people, even Druidry (which apparently I can’t spell since I’ve typed that six times now). I cannot count the number of times I’ve thought about just quitting writing this blog. I did the same thing over two podcasts. Eventually, I brought both of those to an end, not really quitting, but acknowledging that others were doing a far better job at it than I was. I doubt I ever bring the blog to a close. Unless I wind up with an injury that keeps me from publishing one. I enjoy writing this blog, even if not that many people read it. ::shrug:: I’ve had the worst thoughts too. Quitting life. Both happened at very deep depths in my life. Both are deep into my past. But yes, I have had thoughts of stopping my journey along the OBOD grades.

The first time I came across that feeling, I was in my seventh year in the Bardic grade. I was frustrated over the amount of time it was taking me to get through the lessons. My constant re-starting was forcing me to realize that I wasn’t quite “getting” it the way I had envisioned. Then, I went to my first OBOD camp – the Gulf Coast Gathering. The folks there were not only receptive to my doubts, but they were also helpful with tips of how to get past my doubts. “Don’t stop.” “Stop the restarting.” “Put yourself in a comfortable frame of mind before picking up a lesson. If you can’t get there – don’t do the lesson that day.” Susan Jones, the (then) tutor coordinator for OBOD, provided the best advice of all: “Asking for help is not a crime. No one is going to penalize you or look down on you for seeking help.” That one comment alone provided enough push to bring me back around to working through my lessons and getting through the grade. That bit of advice is what continues to push me through my Ovate lessons to this day, and not be self-disparaging over my slow progress.

The second time was just a short time ago. Less than a year. I kept asking myself what I was trying to accomplish by going through the OBOD grades. I didn’t really need the OBOD system to be the Druid I want to be. I didn’t need OBOD to be the Pagan that I am. Was it a sense of accomplishment that I was pushing for? Did I just want to be able to say I was a recognized Druid according to a Druid Order? Some kind of credential that proved my knowledge to everyone else, like my three degrees do to potential employers and professionals in my field? I have certifications that I can hang on my wall, along with those degrees, in my office. Am I proud of those accomplishments? Yes, I am. Fiercely so. I put in a lot of effort, time, sweat, and energy to get those. Is that why I am here on this Path within OBOD? Do I really need this? The answer, over time, is “Yes. Yes I do.” Not because it’s a box to check off. Not to have some honor that I can hang on the wall for others to see. That shit doesn’t matter. Its because I want to do this for me. I want the knowledge that I will get from taking the courses. I want to utilize that knowledge to be a better human being, a better Pagan, and hopefully be helpful to other Pagans on their respective Paths. To be there to cheer them on with their accomplishments, be there when they slip and skin their knees, to acknowledge what they have accomplished, and show them that someone cares about them. I don’t know if I will get that out of the entire OBOD grade experience and knowledge, but I know that my own trials tribulations, doubts, and getting beyond all of that to finish will provide me with a point of reference to help others.

I’m an independent person. Same holds true for my Pagan practice (Gods I hate that phrasing. It makes me sound like I’m a medical Doctor). I’m used to doing things on my own in my Spirituality. To paraphrase the Dennis Leary line from the movie ‘Demolition Man”: I do what I have to, sometimes other Pagans come along. Why would I want to help others, when my Spirituality is so pointedly aimed towards doing things by myself? Well, that goes back to my upbringing. My parents, who have long since passed, instilled that behavior into my sense of others. I’m not anyone special. Just your average, everyday human being trying to live life day at a time. Sometimes, its just one hour at a time. Or even one step at a time. But even through my own issues, I can stop, and take a moment or twelve for someone else. Being a Pagan that relies on a Solitary existence doesn’t mean that I have to be a hermit. Being a solo Pagan (that phrasing is even worse. It makes me feel like I should dress like Star Wars’ Han Solo), means that most of my Spiritual work is done alone, but I’m not going to shove everyone out of my life. Believe it or not, I do have friends. Don’t be shocked. I can be a prickly individual, but I’m not the Don Rickles of the Pagan world either.

So, yes, I do get the urge to quit from time to time. Everyone has those little doubt-gnomes that sit in their shoulders and whisper in their ear. I like gnomes as a better image than devils and angels. You could even substitute brownies (the critters, not the pre-Girl Scout kids) for those shoulder weasels. Or whatever imagery works for you. But you hear the words. “You’re not good enough.” “Those people aren’t going to like you.” “You’re a failure at everything.” “Why even try? You know you’re going to fail.” Yep, I hear those all the time. My method of dealing with them is to stop, take a deep breath, and remember – I am worthy. People out there do care about me. If I were to shuffle off this mortal coil, there are people who would miss me. I am capable of doing whatever I put my mind to. It might not look pretty, but it will get completed. Its never a shameful thing to ask for help. In fact, it’s the bravest thing you can do.

So, if you get those feelings that its time to quit, just stop. Trust me, I have been there. Quitting means giving in to what others might think of you. They may have already made up their mind that you weren’t going to make it. Well, fly them the finger, get back up, and finish. Just to spite them. Because you can do it. I, for one, am in your corner. If you ever need an ear to bend…just write me. elfster@gmail.com I might not get back to you immediately, after all I have my own stuff to get through. But I will answer. Don’t ask for money though. I’m far more skint han you. I promise you that. LOL

–Tommy /|\

Back when my hair was longer….

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

Thinking About: Having Fun and Interacting (My Perspective)

In my last post, Howling Into the Wind: Change, Communication, Respect, I was reminded of something that I don’t talk about much on the blog – but should. Well, actually a few things, but I wanted to address this point at the forefront. A reader of the blog, jswhite, noted that the wider Pagan community could use more playfulness. That notation is a lot more important than you may first realize, at least from where I sit – here behind this keyboard.

A lot of the blog tends to fall in the realm of what I would call “navel gazing.” This is what is described as “self-indulgent or excessive contemplation of oneself or a single issue, at the expense of a wider view.” I can be accused of this perspective on quite a few occasions. Let’s face it, I can only show you my own perspective here. After all, it’s the only viewpoint that I can discuss as a subject-matter expert. I know me better than I know anyone else’s perspective. Talking about how someone else might feel would be arrogant of me, wouldn’t it? Most of the stuff I talk about tends to be around approaching topics from a Pagan perspective or how I do (or don’t do) certain things related to my Spiritual practice. But what about having fun??

At fifty-six, I’m not as active playing sports as I used to be. My ancient body just can’t take the physical beating I used to, plus I am not as healthy as I used to be. However, I still throw a good game of darts or play an average game of pool (or even snooker – though it has been an uber-long time since I have done that). Not that long ago, I was part of a bowling league. Again, I’m no pro, but I did enjoy throwing three games once a week with friends. Here in Hillsboro, Texas, a small town, there’s not a whole lot of Pagans around (I’m the only one that I am aware of) to do things like this on a weekend afternoon or evening, but it certainly would be fun to do. Way back in the day, as I said before – when I was healthier and far spryer – I played soccer, and softball in local leagues. For me it wasn’t about winning or losing, but about being around other people, and having fun. I’m far more competitive when it comes to darts, pool, and snooker. 😊

When I am in OBOD camps, I’m typically a trickster. In the Gulf Coast camp, which is held near the edges of Lake Pontchartrain, just outside of Mandeville (directly opposite of New Orleans on the lake), I’m always trying to find ways to get folks to laugh and joke around. In the little pond nearby, there are alligators (could be crocodiles – I never learned the difference). One OBOD member, I teased about dangling them over the edge of the dock to attract the little swimming, meat-eating lizards. A nickname of “Gator Bait” soon ensued. I get teased plenty in camp as well. There’s no bad intent though. All of it is good fun. The point being that the camp is not all about being super serious. The workshop schedule ALWAYS goes wonky, but most folks don’t worry over that too much. We all get the chance to enjoy one another’s company. While the workshops provide a serious side (for the most part), the shenanigans that occur balance things out, and help provide the closeness of the tight-knit family we have all become over time.

What else do I do for fun? Well, it’s not always for fun, but I read – as I suspect most folks do as well. In fact, reading is one of the major things I have noticed that most Pagans have in common. That, and TV show and movie binging. It’s a great way of doing something you love that can also provide you the chance to be close with someone in your life. Ever read together on the couch? Or cuddled together to binge a season (or two) of a TV show that you enjoy? For me, there’s nothing like it. You can even combine a few things into all of that. Like reading while someone else plays video games – and snuggle up on the couch or even the floor. Or if you feel like being super silly, making a pillow fort in the living room. Whatever works for you.

See, a personal philosophy of mine is that Life is meant to be utilized to better yourself. There is certainly a time for seriousness in our Paganism (shared or not). However, there is also a time for play. A time to set all the seriousness aside and do things that allow us to blow off steam and reset ourselves. This is what a game of darts, pool, or snooker in a pub does for me. I’m not a heavy drinker, so I can nurse a single beer a really long time. But its not about the beer or the game of whatever – its about the company. Spending the time together to get to know one another better. We can talk about anything. We can even spend the time philosophizing between shots or throws. We can even try to solve the world’s problems between games if you want to turn to a more serious side. But the key is interaction. That’s the key in all of this. Interacting.

Writing and thinking about all of this makes me wish for more Pagans near me. To have others with a like mind, who would enjoy getting together to relax, have fun, and interact…about whatever. One day, I’ll find that again. I’ll have a whole new group of Pagans to interact with. In the meantime, I stick to my walks, my music, and my books. And my online friends. We may be physically parted by such geographically significant features such as oceans, but that doesn’t negate the closeness we feel for one another. Because we interact. Again, that’s the key.

–Tommy /|\

I read to learn and to be informed, but I also read to have fun, and take a break from everyday reality too.