Thinking About: Morphing the Myth, Pagan Newbies, and Kirsten Dunst (Sigh)

We’ve all encountered them. The new folks that show up at the Pagan gatherings and public events. They’ve watched a movie or two from the Marvel Universe. They’ve been swayed by the hunky depictions of Hemsworth and Cumberbatch. They’ve done a few Encyclopedias Britannica searches on Loki and/or Thor and have unearthed the Norse Pantheon, and the concept of worshipping the Gods. Or maybe they’ve watched “The Craft” and decided that the Witchcraft that they saw there was something “fun” to try. In their moments of scant research, they found that there was this thing called ‘Wicca”. Their further research uncovered a public gathering of folks called “Pagan Pride Day” at a town or city near them – and they’ve arrived. Ahh, the inevitable culture shock.

Mythology is an integral part of our belief systems. Over the years, however, these ancient tales have been transformed and added to in order to make them more palatable to modern audiences. Many Pagans of today had their first experiences with Paganism in their reading of ‘The Mists of Avalon’ or watching the British ‘Robin of Sherwood’. How has the modern interpretation of mythology changed the Pagan community, and is it a change for the good?

Morphing the Myth (S.P. Hendrick)

I’ve written a handful of blog posts on this particular panel from the 2016 Pantheacon in San Jose, California. I keep getting drawn back to the topic because it does express an indelible aspect of Paganism: how our pop culture influences our Spiritual practices. You don’t think it does? Well, I’d point to all the starry-eyed Loki fanatics that enter into Paganism with dreams of cuddling up to the Benedict Cumberbatch imagery that they have – as well as the fluffy Marvel depiction of one of the more difficult Trickster Gods to work with. Books, movies, tv shows, music….tons of stuff. All of that feeds into a narrative that so many people seem to be bringing themselves to. New Pagans. Love and Light. Are you shivering yet?

Every Gulf Coast Gathering that I have attended (I’ve been to all of them), I met newbie Pagans. People who are attending their first gathering of Pagans in any form. I’ve seen these folks at Pagan Pride Days. Gods know I ran into TONS of them at the three Pantheacons I attended. Many of the questions that these folks fire off are so basic that it gets a little irritating.

What’s it like to touch the Gods?” Well shit, I’m not totally sure how to describe it. Its typically different for each person. Your relationship with a God is different from that of another person> Just like your relationship with a person is different than the relationship someone else has with that same person. Relationships, experiences, what have you – all of that is unique to the individual.

How hard was it to become a Priest?” I’ll let you know if I ever get to that point. Its never been the top of my list of what to accomplish in the first place. That’s the beauty of your own Path. Your footsteps take you where you need to be, even if you don’t realize it until you arrive there. 😊

Is it easy to score with Pagan chicks?” Well, there’s nothing different from Pagans than any other human being. So, dating, sex, and stuff like that….its no different. You still get rejected for being an ass – like asking questions like that. However, I do emphasis…if a Pagan teacher says you got to give up the booty to learn the information…run, don’t walk, away from that person. Paganism has its share of predators, just like any spiritual or religious system.

Do I need to wear the cloaks and Renaissance gear?” No, not really. A lot of folks like wearing the stuff because it provides a certain aura for them. I’m a touch different. I go for comfort. Typically, I wear blue jeans and concert t-shirts. But I do have a cloak that I enjoy wearing on chilly evenings. So its not uncommon to find me in ritual with a Styx t-shirt, torn up jeans, tennis shoes, carrying my walking staff, and wearing that cloak. It looks odd to some folks, but its comfortable to me.

…and the questions tend to go on and on and on. At least, until you hold up a hand and confess that you need to get a refill on your tumbler’s iced tea contents. These newbies are excited. They’ve found something that they feel “clicks” in their lives. Their exuberance and enthusiasm can be easily tiring, and eventually can become annoying. Its understandable that many Pagan-folk will back off from these newbies. They are physically and mentally draining. For me, most of that comes from untangling their fever-dreams of Paganism brought about by Marvel comics and movies from the realities that they are going to find. Yeah, I hate being that kill-joy.

In the “Morphing the Myth” panel, there was a lot of discussion on how science fiction and fantasy movies, tv shows, books and comics can (and have) been the gateway into Paganism for many. Many of these newbies come to Paganism on a super-high set of expectations created by graphic artists and amazing special effects. There’s so much to ingest from these depictions. And hey…I’ll trade places with Hemsworth for a single kiss from Natalie Portman. Just sayin’. But what happens when their Hollywood-induced high crashes into the more mundane reality of Paganism?

Well, if you guessed that many of these folks might leave Paganism and run screaming back to their CGI fantasies – you MIGHT be right. The reality is that we don’t rightly know. There are no statistics kept on people who come to Paganism and leave after a single year. There are no matriculation rates for first-year Pagans – to steal a concept from my previous paying job. Thankfully, there is no registration process for becoming a Pagan. So there’s no real way of knowing how many people that come into Paganism remain after the first year, the second year, the fifth year, or even find a home within a particular Spirituality. So, I can’t even fathom a guess at how many step in, take a few steps into the darkened woods of Paganism, and then turn tail, screaming their entire way out of the woods – back to where they came from. But I’m certain that it happens. And for a large variety of reasons, too.

Perhaps, instead of just throwing these new folks to the wolves – so to speak – letting them deal with the violent clash of their bedazzled Hollywood visions of Paganism and the harsher realities of Paganism as a personal Spiritual Path…. (taking a breath – its getting to be a long sentence) …we can steel ourselves to the idea of answering these same questions over and over and over again. All coming from different faces and voices. All hungrily looking for something to fulfill their empty Spiritual stomachs. Yes, they are going to be clingy. Yes, they are going to be annoying with their questions. Yes, they are going to be frightened and confused when the bubble of their Hollywood concepts of Paganism bursts. But. I take a moment to remember one thing. I was there too. Joni, Mary, and John were kind enough to be patient with me. I owe their generosity and love to do the same for others…and impress on those newbies to be just as patient and loving when they reach a similar point that I am at. In the meantime, tell Peter Parker to move out of the way…I want a date with Kirsten (like I stand a chance, but I can dream…right?)

–T /|\

Me at the 2015 ADF Texas Imbolc Retreat (photo by John Beckett)

Thinking About: Discussion on Prayer and Practicing Patience and Kindness With Others

I have friends that cross over into many different areas of society. Some are conflicting, which can make for some maddening moments when I wind up hearing both sides of an argument. For example, I have friends who are Trump supporters, and others who are staunch Biden supporters. Add to that mix, I have friends who are hard-core Bernie Sanders fans. All three groups are not shy about their commentary, especially in not-so-polite company. All I can really do is take a few more drinks of coffee, nibble on whatever pastry I ordered, and wait for their back-and-forth to settle down enough for me to add a different topic. But that’s politics, which makes for some really boring topical content.

In a similar vein, its difficult to talk about how I approach Paganism and Druidry to Christians – and even to some Pagans and Druids. I don’t ascribe to everything that I learn in my Gwers materials within my studies with the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids (OBOD). I still learn what is being taught so that I can understand a perspective, but its usually materials or concepts that are set on the shelf and not used in my daily approach. There are others who utilize the lessons learned within those lessons as concrete rules, which I completely understand. Its an approach that works for them. That’s what is important. For me, the lessons aren’t always things that I would utilize in what I do, but I still want to learn those materials so that my education is more rounded than just feeding my own approach. I might not use it on my own, but I’m likely to encounter it when I work with an OBOD group at a Gathering, where rituals and such are more about everyone rather than just a single individual.

Discussions with Christian friends are a little different. The terminology is not the same. Conceptual aspects, while having the same verbiage, are quite different in approach. Conversations are a little more centered around defining approaches from both sides, finding common (and agreed upon) conceptual perspectives than it would be about deeper perspectives of understanding. Over on Facebook, I’ll post questions that some of my more conservative Christian friends will ask me in regards to my Druidry and my Paganism. More than once, I have been asked why I bother to answer these questions at all. Well, the answer is fairly simple. They are friends who are wanting to know more about me and what I believe. They ask, and in good faith, I answer.

One thing the Facebook folks never get to see is the ongoing discussion after I answer the initial question. Rarely do the questions stop at just my initial answer. An example of this is a question that was directed at me over talking with my Gods.

You claim to talk with your Gods. Do they tell you what to write in your blog posts?

Granted, the question is a touch snarky, but I did offer a reply.

Well, I do talk with my Gods. Whether you believe or agree with that isn’t up to me to convince you or anyone else. As for Them telling me what to write on the blog….rarely does that ever occur. Most of what I write in the blog comes from conversations that I have had with other people, either face-to-face or in some online fashion.

This is what people on Facebook saw. The conversation continued from there. Eventually, we stumbled into the arena of prayer. The tough part of discussing this is that we had to dance around and around on what defines prayer before we could actually have the discussion. The individual stated that prayer was:

an evolving means of interacting with God, most frequently through a spontaneous, individual, unorganized form of petitioning or thanking.

I countered that this particular example tends to bring things to utilizing the Gods as a convenient Automated Teller Machine.

I promise to be good and follow your Commandments. In return, I ask that you bring me a Pony and a plastic rocket shop.

I countered that prayer was one of several means of communicating or communing with the Gods. This didn’t always utilize a transactional aspect, as you could just be seeking a moment of Their time to say “thank you” or just to listen to Their teaching or lesson that They were providing to you. They weren’t there to be your personal Saint Nicholas.

Over several messages, we finally agreed that prayer could take both forms. Prayer is a manner of seeking rapport with God or the Gods. It can be a simple aspect of devotion, as well as a request for intercession. Of course, we could not come to an agreement that prayer was purely a Christian mechanism. Even though I had pointed out that First Nations peoples considered dancing to be an act of prayer. That was rejected out of hand within the conversation.

As interesting as this back and forth may (or may not) seem, it brings out a particular point. The two of us are as diametrically opposed on Spiritual beliefs as we can possible be. However, despite that opposition, we made a good faith attempt to communicate with one another, in order to understand the other’s perspective. We started in one spot…individual respect for one another. It took a little while to achieve that, as well as finding common ground between one another. In this case, it was a commonality that we had professionally – SQL code writing. Once we had established a piece of common ground, we started to discuss more contentious topics, such as our differing spiritual beliefs. In keeping our mutual professional respect as the underlying basis, we went through the gyrations of learning to discuss deeply held beliefs that neither of us completely agreed upon.

In many ways, I have seen this entire discussion that the two of us have had as an exercise in diplomacy. I learned more about my “opponent” and what he believed than I thought I would. I got the option to see things from his perspective, a perspective I had rejected some three decades into my own past. Since I cannot inhabit his body or conjure his thoughts…I can only hope and assume that he found the same from our discussions.

One thing that did arrive for me at the end of all of this was a deeper affirmation that I am on the Path that I should be. I talk with my Gods. Not on a daily basis though. They have plenty of other things that They are interested in and involved in. I’m just one human. I’m not Their focus within Their realm. They know I am here. When They need to communicate directly with me, They do. I know that for fact. As I noted to my friend in my response, there’s no need for me to convince anyone of that. My beliefs are not some contest to see who can piss further up the hill. Besides, all that does is eventually get piss all over your shoes.

In all of this, I have to emphasis that the first step was to find common ground from where we could be respectful to one another. I’ve had similar conversations with others about other topics, including politics. Most of the time, these folks are looking for a debate, where we go back and forth until one side beats the other into submission. The very moment I figure out that this is the point of them having the interaction, I bow out and let them have the field. They’re happy that they are triumphant. They feel that they are better than me. Me? I could care less. I was seeking a conversation, not some contest. The same holds true in my Spirituality. I didn’t come to Paganism to be the most well-known Pagan in the world. That’s an accolade that I could care less about. I came to Paganism and Druidry because it fits who I am and provides a platform for me to become a better human being, as well as help others when they have need.

In the end, I drive people crazy posting these questions to Facebook. I get it. They feel that the questions that are being asked are simple and a little stupid. Many folks can find that to be irritating. When I get these questions, I try to remind myself of one point: at one time, I asked questions like this too. I’m glad that Joni, Mary, Stefan, and so many others were patient with me. I owe it to them to be patient with those that ask similar questions of me.

–T /|\

Photo by Kate Gundareva on Pexels.com

Thinking About: Beltane, Going Deeper, and Re-investigating the Basics

Well, we made it to the end of one month and the start of a new one. An apt description for how I manage my Druidry and Paganism – one day at a time. Though that does conjure images of McKenzie Phillips and Valerie Bertinelli….but I am essentially carbon-dating myself with that reference. Essentially, we’ve reached May Day, Beltane…whatever you want to call it. We’ve reached another spoke in the wheel.

Sometimes, I like to take these spokes and compare where the turn of this year’s Wheel is to where things were in previous years. A few years ago, I had been troubleshooting one of the largest SQL queries I had ever written. I had found that a data-type mismatch that I had been unaware of previously was the culprit in making this monster query take over a full eight hours to run. After changing the error that I had made, the query ran in less than a minute. That was the culmination of eight months of constant troubleshooting. Just a simple data mismatch. But the investigative methodology taught me more about query writing than I had ever known. I had to get down to the basics of HOW the query ran, in order to understand WHY it ran so slow. That investigative process taught me a lot about how to go about the process of digging deeper. Just a few months later, I found myself using the same process to help me go even deeper into the woods with my own Druidry. Those initial steps were not easy ones to make and not easy ones to continue with today.

Almost every Pagan and Druid I have talked with has made mention of the moment when their Path suddenly took a downward turn. Not downward in terms of being “bad” but downwards in terms of getting “deeper.” One individual explained it as wading into a pool at the shallow end. The water is usually about hip deep. You can swim if you want to, but you can wade just as easily. Your typical walking gait is severely slowed as your legs push against the force of the water. The depth of the water slowly gets higher as you walk further down the length of the pool until the it is just below your armpits. Each step forward becomes slower and more difficult until you feel your body start to float. Now, you need to swim. She described the swimming part as realizing that she needed to change her approach to the water she was engulfed within. Merely floating was not enough. She learned how to keep herself above the water line so that she could breathe. This was dogpaddling. Not floating, but not swimming either. She was becoming acclimated to her environment’s change in depth. Her perception of the water had changed. After a time, she realized that when she cupped her hands in a certain manner, she could literally pull herself across the surface of the water which allowed her to traverse the length of the pool much quicker. Her perception of the water had changed. She could travel through it freely. But if she held her breath, she could slip beneath the familiar, comfortable surface of the water to descend into a scenario that was far different from what she knew at the surface. Here, she could only spend short periods of time beneath the surface before she had to surface for air. Underneath the surface, she could perform somersaults and gymnastics moves that she was unable to do in the air-filled environment she was used to. She could descend to the bottom of the pool and with some effort and determination, she could slowly walk along the bottom. Later, she found that she could spend greater amounts of time within this new realm through the usage of breathing equipment, such as scuba gear. The more time she spent in that watery environment, the more she learned how to interact with it in ways that allowed her to do so much more. That didn’t even account for the wider world she would encounter when she finally took the chance to swim in the ocean, where her perception was a mere speck compared to the vastness of what potentially awaited there.

When my friend was describing this piece of perception, her purpose was to get me to understand her perspective in going deeper in her own Pagan studies. She’s a Wiccan, so I didn’t think I would find myself grasping her analogy all that well. Plus, I’m not a swimmer (honestly – I don’t know how to swim). It turned out it was far easier for me to understand than I had realized.

As a Druid, my personal analogy has always been the forest. I have always talked about going deeper into the forest. The first steps have the trees quite a bit apart. The sun is able to get through the branches easily enough. To see the clearing that you’ve left, you only need to turn around and look back on the way you’ve come. But the deeper you go, the closer the trees become. The branches lower to the ground are devoid of foliage. The sunlight comes through in single shafts of light because of the dense foliage on upper branches that have ready access to the light (Maples versus the Oaks, anyone?). The bare limbs nearer to the ground will occasionally reach out and grab at your cloak or your shirt, attempting to hold you in place, slowing your pace through the forest. Occasionally, you can hear the sound of a nearby creature walking over the ground, which is covered in dead, musty pine needles. This thick, rotting “carpet” muffles the sound of those feet creating a dull thumping sound that seems to echo from under your feet. Looking back, you see the same thing as looking forward – an endless see of greyish tree trunks. Occasionally, you can hear a wind blowing through the leaves above, providing a hushed soundtrack to the landscape you find yourself within. The secrets of the forest are all around you. You only need observe to find the answers to those secrets. The riddles among the trees within the forest.

I’m not sure if either of these descriptive passages call to your idea of Paganism or Druidry or what have you. The perspective of uncovering the depth and breadth of the mysteries that we all celebrate. We stand at the spoke of the Wheel at the point of May Day, Beltane, or whatever you prefer to call it. We celebrate coming to this moment in time and what it represents to us within our own Spirituality. We are halfway between the Spring Equinox and the Summer Solstice. For many, this is the gateway to the Summer. Others see this as a potent time of fertility for the land, the cattle, for all. For me, this is a point in the Wheel of the Year where I seek a Path or direction and prepare myself to go deeper in my investigation of it. For this year, it’s a repurposing of who I am and my connection to this wonderful Path of Druidry that I am on. It is a time to go back and look at the beginnings again. Not to do things over. Not to rewalk the Path. But to stop and observe along the way. To see things again, but to look in minute detail. Perhaps, I’ll find a data-type mismatch in something that I had not considered before. Something that will not only reopen my eyes in wonder and awe but will also find me learning to swim in a deeper level of perception. Something that will have me listening to the whispers of the trees to learn the secrets of the forest that I had never contemplated when I was here last.

Have a wonderful Beltane, May Day or whatever you call it!

–T /|\

Photo by Luis del Ru00edo on Pexels.com

Thinking About: Beltane, Samhain, and Drinking the Keg Dry

Beltane is on the radar. From the calendar perspective, its just less than a week away. Like any year, I’ve been asked what I am doing to celebrate this time of year. My answer is always the same: as little as possible. This is not one of my favorite turns of the wheel. Beltane, along with Samhain, are two of the most popular times to hang out with Pagans. Lots of partying, lots of good mead being shared in copious amounts…just a good time for all. I don’t and won’t begrudge anyone else the awesome festival atmosphere of either turn of the wheel. For me, its just way too many people, but its also a feeling of being like the two times of the Christian calendar point of Easter and Christmas. Let me explain my perspective a little…

When I was exploring the Christian faith – shortly after I graduated high school – I noticed a phenomenon that took place in both the Catholic and Southern Baptists perspectives that happened each year – the massive increase of attendance at both Easter and Christmas. In both instances, I asked the church leaders why this happened and both explained that there are “lukewarm” members of their faith. People who only come to church at Easter and Christmas because these are the two most important moments in the life of their Savior – His birth and death. Because this had so much significance in their belief systems, their followers seemed to feel that this was the only time that they NEEDED to be in church. In the Baptist faith, the Pastor explained that these “lukewarm” Christians would have troubles crossing over into Heaven because their faith was not strong. “Jesus will spit out those with a lukewarm faith in the same way that one would spit out coffee that had cooled for too long,” he explained to me.

Does this also apply to the Pagan folk that attend Beltane and Samhain gatherings only? Surely, there would be a large contingent of folks that were at either gathering because of the free-flowing alcohol, the very sexualized aspect of things (in the case of Beltane), and the fun, carnival atmosphere of both, right? Sex, booze, and partying are always a good strong attraction, especially for those looking for all of that to be available without having to work too hard for it. Very appealing…one would think. I’ve been at gatherings where new individuals to the group spend more time helping to empty the mead keg than to participate in ritual…sad, but very true.

Now with those observations out of the way, let me point out a few added moments of clarification. In both cases, the number of people that fit those categories is not hugely significant. They are, usually, some of the louder people at either set of the gathering – usually needing to be seen, as if that swings the camera of the video feed in their direction – providing the Gods with a record of their having been there. In baseball parks, these people are commonly referred to as being at the game “to be seen.” They are usually referred to as being lower than casual fans, usually there to ham it up for the camera so that their faces can be displayed on the jumbo-tron screen for the entire cadre of folks in attendance to see how pretty they are. Do these folks detract from the game, even for the hardcore stats fans like me who score the game on paper with a pencil? Not at all. Nor do these “lukewarm” attendees at the gatherings, some of whom I have described above. The only hardcore foul is the copious assistance in draining a mead keg that was meant as a chance to sample and partake for all attendees.

Some of the groups I have been acquainted with over the years solved some of this issue by holding invitation-only Beltane and Samhain celebrations. In this manner, they manage to control their gatherings a little tighter, ensuring that an atmosphere that they wish to have is held to a standard that they are requiring. Good for them. I have been invited to such gathering in the past, and while Wicca is not my cup of tea – this type of attendance control has been a good handle for me. A few other groups have handled their celebrations by making it a members-only gathering. Again, good for these folks. It works for them. However, I have found myself doing the majority of my celebrations and observances of the Wheel alone. As an individual who is working on my own within a larger, world-wide group – this methodology has worked for me. I can manage the focal aspects of seriousness and playfulness to a level which I am comfortable with. I only have a single individual to worry about…me. Of course, I do still need group aspects as well, which is why I try my best to make the Gulf Coast Gathering for the celebration of Alban Eilir. We carry on, giggle, laugh and such, but there is also a seriousness associated with the rituals as well. These people are family to me, I am very comfortable with them. Gathering with them is a salve to my practicing alone. There’s a touch of difference between that gathering and the public gatherings I have attended in the past for Beltane and Samhain.

There are people that will be irritated or downright disagree with me over my perspectives that I am pulling forward in this blog post. Not only is that just “ok”…I expect it, and it should be so. I’m no law giver when it comes to Paganism, Druidry, Beltane, Samhain, or anything else. I have zero interest in telling people how to Pagan. My Paganism is lived every single day, just like anyone else’s is. I live it out loud, just like everyone else does. The difference is that I like my volume around four, while others might like to “turn it up to ten, and rip the knob off” – to paraphrase the old Z-Rock commercials from back in the 1980s. That’s a bit off-putting to me, but I always remind myself…that’s the way that they approach their beliefs. It works for them, and that’s what is more important. Pleasing me over how they do their Paganism should never be any kind of factor in things.

With all of that said… I hope you have an awesome Beltane – however, wherever and with whoever you find yourself celebrating with. This is a time of renewal. A time to celebrate the new growth of crops in the field, which will grow and yield a bounty for all. A time to shake off the cold and dark of Winter and revel in the warmth of the coming Sun. A time to reflect on where we have been during the dark of Winter, and a moment to discuss the coming Year and the promise that it holds for you on your Path. For me, it’s a time to shake off what has been, and prepare for new steps in a new environment. Again, I hope you have an awesome Beltane…and a glorious, bountiful coming year. May your Gods bless you and walk your Path with you from time to time. 😊

–T /|\

Thinking About: New Footsteps, Old Paths

I am a teacher. I presided over a collegiate classroom for three and a half years, teaching students about Information Technology, automated business processes, and what Big Data is and how it applies to their everyday lives. I wasn’t your typical instructor, though. I took the classroom material, which admittedly is some super boring shit, and turned it on its head. I crafted discussions and exercises to showcase points that the book’ author clumsily tried to amplify. I didn’t just want my students to learn, I wanted them to experience. We crafted a paper airplane manufacturing line to emphasize the need for tight quality control. I brought in older pieces of information technology, along with newer ones, to give them an eyes-view of electronics micronization – where they could literally hold the technology in their hands and see its advancement right in front of them. We had discussions about data breaches, the misuse of data, social hacking, and even Julian Assange, all taken directly out of the news headlines – just to bring them up to speed on the issues of the day. I had a reputation for being a very “different” instructor. I am a teacher.

People ask me to help mentor them in their Paganism studies or even in their approach to Druidry. Here is where the issues for me arise. Ninety-nine percent of the time, I push these people to other individuals (if the querent is local to the DFW area in Texas), or I do my utmost best to get them in touch with other individuals who have online courses of study (if they are not local to the area I know better than others). I know that disappoints the people who approach me, but I’ve always felt that others can do a better job at this than I can. In about two weeks, much of that is going to change, as I relocate to Little Rock, Arkansas.

Essentially, I will have nowhere to hide any longer. I’m an open Pagan; I don’t hide who or what I am. But I’ve always kept my religious practice as a solitary approach. I’ve done that because its efficient for me. No discussion of how ritual is to be done. No discussion of the verbiage that is meant to be used. No back and forth over what God and/or Goddess should be the focal point of the ritual. No debate over the use of drawing a circle to create sacred space. Each of those points are my understanding and perspective. But going forward, I am likely to not have that option anymore. See, I’m sure there are Pagans in the Little Rock area, just not sure of how many OBOD folks there. I’ll continue to be open about who I am and what I am, which is likely to draw interest from others contemplating the same Path. I have nowhere to push potential adherents to the path off to. And I don’t think that my Gods are going to let me do that any longer, anyways.

The reminders have been there. I teach, and I’m good at it. I can formulate where somewhere is getting hung up on terminology and design creative ways to getting past those snags. Many dreams and meditations have had points made to me that I can no longer say “no.” I believe in the future of Paganism through the eyes of new adherents. In a sense its hypocritical of me to not embrace being there for those that would want more about my perspective than what I write here.

I bitch, I moan, I kvatch about labels such as “Priest,” “Elder,” and “Teacher.” The problem is…I can’t hide all of that away and still rage on about the coming waves of the future for Paganism. Hiding in the forest just doesn’t cut it. I have to wander the trails in the forest too, and eventually encounter those trying to make their way through it.

::big sigh:: What this doesn’t mean – I’m not going to be setting up an online class format, charging monies, and what not. That’s a world that is decidedly not for me. Rather, it means that I am now planting the ideas for forming a potential Seed Group in the future. I’m not sure that anything will occur from the ideas that I am planting. In fact, I’m not sure what these ideas will germinate into. I can’t sit back and just not try. It means embracing terms I have pushed away for a long time. Many of you who are reading this recognize a lot of the issues I have had with all of this over the last four to five years of posts here on the blog. In a sense, I’ll be rehashing these points out again…some here on the blog, many not. I saw you wipe away the anxious sweat over me writing about all of that again. But that’s ok. Just think about those posts like re-examining a rock you’ve picked up before. In going through this, the idea is to see the rock from a new perspective, examining it for its texture, its color, the feel of its sharper edges under your fingertips or even feeling the soothing, smooth caress of the rounded edges that have been smoothed from the wear of weather and the constant rubbing from the contact of your skin.

Sometimes, we find our footsteps back on parts of the path that we have already walked. Sometimes, we’ve walked those steps in every imaginable direction and we feel there’s nothing new on the Path to see or experience. But its not the footsteps that changes our perspective when we come back to familiar territory. It’s the change in our mindset that brings new experiences from this weary, overly familiar landscape. Our footsteps are not as heavy, not as quick, we step livelier rather than dragging our feet…all because we think a little differently than before.

This is where I am now. New steps on familiar ground. An idea planted. Now its time to be patient and help it to grow. Into what? I have no idea. But I’m interested to see. Brave new steps into a familiar old world.

–Tommy /|\

Photo by Tobias Bju00f8rkli on Pexels.com

Thinking About: Defining Pebbles and Small Rocks in the Avalanche

One of my favorite Metallica songs has a lyric that I’ve really found to be somewhat profound over the years.

You labeled me
I’ll label you

Metallica, “The Unforgiven”

These two short lines from the song “Unforgiven” can sum up a lot of stuff within my own life. How I’ve accrued the various labels over my life, particularly from my own parents. Hippy. Dirty. Lazy. Unworthy. And a whole host of others. All because I chose to live my life in my own manner. But I’ve accrued labels from other places as well. Druid. Pagan. Polytheist. Hard worker. Inventive. Quick thinker. Priest. Mentor. Leader. Patient. Troubleshooter. Capable. A lot of people will look at that list and see things that they have labeled me as, as well. Some will look at that list and exclaim: “you’re not that!” The reality of it all is that the labels that get applied are always different from person to person and based on their own focus through the jaundiced lens they see the world through. While I detest some of the labeling that gets applied to me, much of it applies from the perspective it gets adhered to me.

Much like the bumper and back window of your car, we all accrue labels that are applied to us by others. Each bumper sticker describes that label, placed there by someone else. You’d be pissed if someone applied a bumper sticker to your car, which espoused a perspective that you didn’t agree with. You’d rip it off your car as quickly as you could, so that you wouldn’t be seen driving around town with that moniker on your car – tying you to a belief that you didn’t agree with, right?

Just to add a touch of flavor to all of this thought, back when I started my first abortive attempt to a bachelor’s degree, I was driving a two-speed Honda Civic around Shreveport, Louisiana (circa mid-1980s). I had a bumper sticker on that over-qualified golf-cart that had a bumper sticker stating “Recall EWE”. This was the first political bumper sticker I had. It was a reference to an effort to recall then-Governor Edwin Washington Edwards, one of the most corrupt politicians in Louisiana. One morning, I parked my car in one of the student lots on campus and came back to my bumper sticker having been removed from my bumper. Apparently, one of Edwards’ ardent fans took exception and remove my bumper sticker from my car. At first I was pissed off over the entire thing, having a feeling of being violated over my rights to free speech. Over time, I realized that it was a childish response by someone else to what I had been espousing. Instead of feeling anger, I felt pity for the individual who had done such an act – they were triggered by a simple label that said something diametrically in opposition to something they believed in. It took me a long time to get to that perspective.

See, I’m no different than anyone else when it comes to being labeled as this or that by others. The labels sting and are hurtful. Our society teaches us to label things we wish to mock. Democrats become DemonRats. Republicans become Repugnicans. Cute twists in wording but meant to denigrate a group of people that we disagree with. During the height of the Ku Klux Klan in the deep south in America, blacks were referred to as “monkeys” or “apes” among other monikers. The labels were meant to denigrate and be harmful. There was no positivity associated with it. More recently, the Witches among the Pagan community have started to reach back for the term ‘Witch” – removing it from a denigrating perspective (such as “A Witch with a capital B”) to something that they hold as a positive label. Something that expresses the positivity of their Path.

Many labels that we have are hard to shake, for whatever reason. Not all can be claimed or should be wanted to be reclaimed. For those, I can only suggest that one does their best to ignore monikers hurled as insults, and calmly and quietly reject those that are incorrectly applied. I’ve gone through this constantly with the term “Priest”. In the not-so-distant Past I have bristled over its application to me. I still don’t feel as if it is an accurate description of who I am on the Path I follow. I’ve learned to be more gentle over pushing it away from myself. In some cases, I’ve learned that its just easier to accept its application, rather than turning my rejection of it into an unintentional contentious battle, typically rounded over the difference in opinion of its definition.

Further complicating the entire label/terminology/definition point has been the recent loud addition to the conservative culture war over the identification of transgender individuals. “Define a woman” was a rallying cry by conservatives during the recent Supreme Court nomination of Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson. For me, its an easy situation…if you identify as a woman, you’re a woman. If you identify as a man, you’re a man. If you identify as being non-gender, that’s who you are. Period. However, conservatives prefer to identify people by their genetics, and then assign laws to place that labeling on those who do not identify the way that they (conservatives) prefer.

Labeling happens everywhere in our history and culture. We (as a collective society) prefer to have everyone labeled and placed into convenient descriptive boxes. That way, quick assumptions of people can be made. If you identify as a Democrat, you’re a socialist out to destroy American values and turn this country into a Socialist graveyard. If you’re a Republican, you’re a political thug that wants to subvert the Constitution and send this country back to the 1950s with backward and outdated social norms. If you’re an American, you want to create countries around the world that are subverted to American control and utilized in a slavish manner to prop up American capitalism as a means of identifying your culture as rich and dominant throughout the world. There are all kinds of terms that are utilized to quickly identify these piles of people.

How do you stop it? How do you stop labeling people? Well, it takes more than just me and you to change things. It will take a major paradigm shift to change the way we all see one another. It will take a lot to get people to see a different way of enumerating the people we are around. It means seeing people for what they are – human beings – instead of what they believe or what we believe of them. It will take a shifting of the way we try to view others that don’t agree with us in a denigrating fashion…eventually seeing one another as equal to all of us, regardless of their opinions. And where we are at this point in our world-wide culture, how integrated this superior/inferior perspective is ingrained in all of us…a handful of people are not going to change this very much. To quote the fictional character Kosh from the tv series Babylon 5:

The avalanche has already started. It is too late for the pebbles to vote.

I can still hope though. I can still stand my ground on this entire structure of labels. Even if it is too late for this pebble to vote. I still remain the labels that I chose to define myself over – I’m a Pagan. I’m a Druid. I’m a Polytheist. I’m a programmer. I’m a troubleshooter. I’m alive.

–Tommy /|\

Photo by Dennis Leinarts on Pexels.com

Thinking About: The Application of Force

From time to time, I get tagged on posts that smash and bash on the Christian faith. Usually, I remove the tag and ignore the post. I had my beef with the Christian faith back when I was younger. Over time, my anger towards that faith has mellowed, as I aimed myself towards more positive directions with my Druidry. I’ve also learned to distinguish between those Christians that twist the teachings of Jesus ben Joseph to suit their own needs and those Christians who try their very best to walk the same Path that he did.

In today’s society, the culture war that has been brewing in the hard-right’s teapot has finally started coming to a boil. Laws limiting the rights of people based on who they love or how many have become the first focal point in that war. Certainly, there’s a lot of Pagans that scream about taking up this fight, and I completely understand the fervor behind that battle cry. But I’ve always maintained patience over knee-jerk reaction. I’ve caught a ton of flak over that perspective. I’m not reacting fast enough. I’m allowing the “enemy” to gain the initiative. I’m letting “them” get the upper hand. There’s a lot more, but you get the point.

Sometimes, I think the difference tends to be that I don’t paint these folks as “them”…after all, they are just as human as I am. People will scream and shout that these folks are trying to subvert the Constitution that governs us all here in the United States. That if they are allowed to rule this country in the manner that they see fit, all of us that believe differently than they do will be locked up in concentration camps. How Orwellian. But I try to remember that a loud, small minority do have intentions of harm towards others. While I don’t believe a majority of people are in their camp, I have no illusions that such people do exist…on both sides.

All of that eventually leads to the question: “how do you manage to stay sane in the middle of all of this?” Well, I lean back to my Druidry. My Druidry teaches that all life is sacred – that includes the people that think differently and believe differently than I do. I can disagree with people on all kinds of positions and perspectives, and still care about them in times of need. I certainly don’t climb out of my truck at an accident scene and ask each person what their political or religious beliefs are before helping them. I also don’t check the backside of each vehicle to see which of them have bumper stickers that I disagree with and then refuse to help the occupants based on that. My neighbors here all supported President Trump in the last election. There were only a handful of us that did not have political yard signs declaring our political positions. Still, if any of their houses were on fire, I would not hesitate to run inside to pull people and pets from the house before the fire department arrived. I would not hesitate to turn on their garden hoses and do my best to fight the fire and limit their property damage as much as I could.

“But they disagree with you!” “They are Trump supporters; they want you dead or in jail!” Sorry, I don’t believe everything the news media tells me. I read what is said, see the sources that are quoted in the articles or listen critically to what the “experts” brought on their show have to say…and I make up my own mind about the individual that they are speaking of. In the end, they are all still human beings, and that outweighs any other thought I might have. “What if they are firing weapons at you?” Well, if I shot and harmed them in self-defense, I would still offer and render aid to them – supposing that it was safe for me to do so. But I would defend myself with deadly force if the need arose. I like the idea of still being alive, even though my own health has declined over the years.

I see the political divisions in the world around me. I see many folks getting caught up in that paradigm, referring to the other side of their perspective as “them” or describing those folks as beneath the quality of an average human being. I don’t buy into that. My Druidry, the very beliefs that I live by, won’t let me do that. I recall much the same was said about the Iraqis during the first Desert Storm war. They were referred to with racial slurs and portrayed as sub-human individuals that deserved to die because the President of their country was a dictatorial tyrant. These Iraqi people didn’t overthrow him, thus they approved of him. A simple assumption, which wasn’t true. But an assumption that provided permission to kill these other human beings because they were “inferior” to our thinking. The reality was different. Many of them were conscripted right off the streets into the army to fight on the front lines as the first forces that the Allied units would encounter. Their incentive was clear. Fight or their families would suffer the consequences. They had an additional incentive as well. The fanatical Republican Guard were directly behind their units. Should they choose to feel the incoming Allied forces, it was noted that the Republican Guard forces would cut them down.

Within Druidry as I see it, all life is sacred and to be respected…even when the individual that is to be respected doesn’t provide the same respect to those on the opposite side. To make things a bit clearer, I am not a pacifist of any sort. You seek to visit violence upon myself or any other individual, I will step up to halt that violence to the best of my ability with whatever item I can utilize to do so and whatever force is necessary, at its lowest element of application. Others will definitely see things differently…and do. I may not agree, but I respect the ability of people to make their own choices as well. I’m not here to make other people believe as I do. I’m not here to make definitions of what is or isn’t Druidry, magick, or what have you. I’m here to live my life as peacefully, patiently, and as thoughtfully as I can.

–T /|\

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Thinking About: Making a Difference

How do you think you’ve made a difference?

My idea of making a difference is just getting people to open their eyes to other ideas, mindsets, or perspectives. I’m not the originator of those things, I am only trying to get people to widen the scope of their thinking to see what they would normally dismiss. I have a few conservative and Christian friends that I like to poke at what they believe, so I can understand the “why” of it all. That helps me to open my eyes and understand where they are coming from. I can only hope that my example of such a process helps them to do the same with me. In that manner, we both learn a touch more about directions that we normally wouldn’t face.

There are a few people that would suggest that I make a difference by writing about my perspectives here on the blog. ::shrug:: I can understand and relate, but in terms of learning more – nothing beats an out-of-fashion discussion. I say “out-of-fashion” simply because our modern-day society emphasizes the idea of “winning” every contentious discussion that is had.

There are others that cite my example as a Druid as inspiring them to make progress in their own studies. In a major way, this type of “difference” scares me because I know how badly I’ve fucked up along my own Path. I hear that I am an example, but when I compare that to my own Path over very rocky terrain, I’m always perplexed how I can be inspirational and not be cited more properly as a warning sign of “how-not-to-do-it.”

A few folks have mentioned that its my completely open honesty that has that inspirational effect. I don’t shy away from the fact that I’m hardly anywhere near to being perfect. I’m also honest about the landmines I have stepped upon and the ones I’ve tap-danced on. But that’s always been a point of the blog: to honestly show some of the missteps I’ve endured, and how I’ve managed to get beyond those points. I guess that can be considered as “making a difference.”

“Making a difference” also comes in the form of always trying to be there for a hand to hold, arms that can hug others in their times of need, and a staff I can lend to others to lean on. I’ve constantly mentioned the perspective of acts of kindness and compassion. That’s a leftover from Grateful Dead concerts and interviews. No matter which member was stepping up to the plate, there was always a mention of how kindness was something that every single person at the concert could do to make the world a better place. All we have to do is offer a hand to hold, a shoulder to lean into, or an ear to bend. Each one of those acts requires nothing that we should have any issue offering. In the words of Bob Weir, all we have to do is be there.

I have had it mentioned to me many times that I could make a difference by being in a place of leadership. I’ve always been of the mind that there are so many Pagans and Druids that are far better at being a leader than I could ever dream of being. And I’ve had friends disagree loudly on that point. Well, I have an upcoming move to Arkansas – where I have yet to find an OBOD group (or even a member) in the Little Rock area. Since I announced this to friends, more than a few have mentioned that I would seem to be in a place to start some kind of OBOD-y activity there. Perhaps that is true. Perhaps, my Gods are shoving me in that direction. Time will be the arbiter of that perspective. My first concern is getting moved up there after finding someplace to live. Priorities, no?

Being an inspiration, someone to look to for leadership or what not – that’s a very odd place for me to find myself. It’s a scary proposition. I keep trying to push the idea of being a role model away. It keeps coming back to latch on to me like the hairs of my cats to my casual-wear t-shirts. However, knowing that people are looking to how I handle myself, especially with those that are diametrically opposed to what I believe in, has made me take a longer, harder look at how I approach potentially contentious moments. This has me taking periods of pause, to bring myself into check a bit more, so that I act correctly and accordingly. Sometimes, I feel like I am back in Non-Commissioned Officer schools when I was in the Air Force, learning the proper way to comport myself as an enlisted leader within my duty section.

There are so many ways to make a difference. More than I could dare to count. However, I have found myself coming back to one theme throughout my thought process on this: whether I like it or not, someone is going to be looking to me for how a Pagan Druid handles himself. Someone will find my very direct manner of dealing with issues to be an enduring aspect of who I am and take inspiration towards stepping up and into the pitch. And at some point in their lives, someone will be doing the same to them. Making a difference can be complicated, but not doing it means there was a missed opportunity to be the Pagan Druid that I am. And I hate missing opportunities.

–Tommy /|\

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Thinking About: I Wish Everything Would Just Go Back to the Way It Was

It broke. You can’t put it back together again. You can’t go back to the way it was before. You can only go forward.

Long, long ago, this was a piece of advice that my very first High Priestess gave to me. I cannot remember the specific “why” that prompted the statement, but I do remember pieces of the long talk we had. This has been a solace to every single fuckup I’ve done. Like many folks, I’ve got some major moments in my past, some not that far ago. But every single time, after I’ve grieved over the loss of what happened, after I’ve finished slamming myself for being an idiot – every single time I’ve come back to her words. It’s a reminder to get up, slap the dust off my clothing, and continue forward.

I’ve uttered those infamous words quite a few times before.

I wish everything would just go back to the way it was.

Except that it can’t. Once something is broken, it can be repaired or even replaced. The repaired item is still broken, its just been patched up to be ALMOST what it was. The replaced item may seem the same, but its still a replacement. Once something is broken, there is nothing that can take it back to what it once was. This is easily noted in looking at a vase. I knocked it off the table, and it broke. I glued it back together and repainted it. It looks just the same, but its integrity is not as strong as it was before. Its not completely whole either. There was a small chip that I couldn’t find in the pieces that I glued back together. Replacing the vase with another means that a different vase is there now. It looks the same, but its not. I cannot go back to the vase that it was yesterday.

Yesterday, I was watching Babylon 5 (my favorite SciFi tv show) and ran across a moment that really dove-tailed into my thoughts for this post.

Dr. Stephen Franklin: I realize that I always defined myself in terms of what I wasn’t. I wasn’t a good soldier like my father. I wasn’t the job. I wasn’t a good prospect for marriage or kids. Always what I wasn’t, never what I was. And when you do that, you miss the moments. And the moments are all we’ve got. When I thought I was going to die, even after everything that’s happened, I realized I didn’t want to let go. I was willing to do it all over again, and this time I could appreciate the moments. I can’t go back, but I can appreciate what I have right now. And I can define myself by what I am instead of what I’m not.
Captain John Sheridan: And what are you?
Dr. Stephen Franklin: Alive. Everything else is negotiable.

Babylon 5, Season 3, Episode 21, “Shadow Dancing”

In this moment, Dr. Franklin is noting that he had been defining his life in terms of what he wasn’t rather than what he is. But he makes a point that he “can’t go back” even as he had been “willing to do it all over again” just so he could “appreciate the moments.” For me, this is an important distinction. I’ve spent a good deal of my life putting in the penance for the moments that I’ve had a hand in fucking up. Blaming myself, defining who I am by the things that I did wrong. All of that makes for an unpleasant me. I’m always grumpy with myself. I’m always downgrading who and what I am. About a year ago, I had to change all of that.

Now, I look at who I am and see myself in a somewhat different light. I look at myself in terms of what I can do. I’m a technical troubleshooter. I might not have the answer. I might not know exactly how to solve the problem. However, I will do my damndest to resolve the issue to the best of my ability. Before, I would be afraid to let go of the issue and ask for help. But I understand the concepts, meanings, and needs of teamwork (thank you United States Air Force). I am not weak for asking for assistance. I have an opportunity to learn. When we succeed, I have someone(s) to celebrate the moment with.

Looking into the past, I have always viewed all the people that have come and gone in my life as the inevitable detritus of my hot mess of a life. But that’s not true either. Each one of those people were part of my life, part of the various moments of joy and beauty that I have had. In some cases, we didn’t part on good terms, but that doesn’t diminish those moments. As Dr. Franklin noted in that scene from Babylon 5, “the moments are all we have.”

We can’t go back to the past. We can’t make thing the way they were. That even goes for laws. We make laws. We change laws. We rescind laws. We bring laws back. But when we bring laws back, rarely are things the same way again. I’ve said it a lot – we are all unique. That even goes for the moments that we have, the moments that we encounter. Over time, we change, we evolve, we experience. All of that changes us incrementally. When we encounter one another again, things are different because we are now, not yesterday. We live now, not yesterday. We live now for the experiences of tomorrow.

–Tommy /|\

Thinking About: Rituals, Gatherings, Druidry Alone, Paganism Together

Rituals, gatherings. Its a part of being a Pagan. Its also a part of being a Christian, a Muslim, a Hindu, a human being – its literally a part of life. Some rituals are simple. Chew your food twelve times before swallowing is a ritual that people make for their eating habits. Anyone around me at breakfast on the second day of camp can attest that I don’t always practice this ritual. Or it can be as simple as what a batter does between pitches in a baseball game. Sean Casey, a first baseman, was once described as a “human rain delay” since he always adjusted his batting gloves, stretched his lower back, and took two practice swings between every pitch. 😊 Rituals can be elaborate, such as a Catholic mass. Most likely rituals tend to fall somewhere between those two points. So does the symbolic nature or intent of a ritual, but the point is that we have these rituals in our lives.

Every Pagan/Druid camp I have been involved in has had three rituals (sometimes more) for their event. An opening ritual thanking the Gods and the participants for attending the event (most have been three days in length), a main ritual addressing the point on the Wheel of the Year, and a closing ritual thanking the participants and the Gods for being a part of the event. That’s a simplistic explanation, but you get the idea.

Everyone has a different approach to ritual – particularly group ritual. In the camps and events I have attended, its not uncommon to hear the phrase “robe up” before any ritual or initiation that was to take place. Essentially, it’s a clarion call to everyone to get ready for the ritual. Some take their participation extremely serious and have similar expectations of others. Tardiness, otherwise jokingly referred to as “Pagan Standard Time” is heavily frowned upon. Those attending wearing street clothing instead of some type of ritual garb are seen as “not being totally serious.” On the other side of the spectrum are those that miss the boat on these stringent non-vocal “rules.”

I’m in-between where the clothing/dress-up factor is concerned. I wear my cloak to rituals, but underneath, I tend to dress in my usual street clothes. Usually this is a Rush or Grateful Dead t-shirt combined with whatever jeans I happen to have on, and my tennis shoes or hiking boots (depending on how cold/wet it is outdoors). I’ll carry my staff with me. I’ll add a photo here for you to get the general idea. I wear the cloak because I like it. Its green because I like to blend into my surroundings in the forest – at least somewhat. Plus, wearing white isn’t exactly a great idea here in the deep south of America. Everything else that I wear is about comfort and utility…not looks, including the staff. My old, fat self sometimes needs something to help with standing for long periods of time. I’m a firm believer that people should dress in what is comfortable and suitable for themselves…even when it “clashes” with the “fashion” of the circle. In my thinking, the Gods could give two shits about how we dress, They accept us as we are. But that’s my two quid into the soup…

Anyone that has attended rituals with me and the shenanigators that I tend to be around with in camp…know about the little giggle sessions we tend to have much of the time. Its not disrespect for the ritual, its an affirmation that we are together, and living life. We are all quite capable of keeping ourselves composed at appropriate moments and during appropriate ritual points. We giggle and carry-on because we’re together, happy to be with one another again, and enjoying life. That is, after all, one of the unspoken functions of these gatherings, being together to enjoy life and one another.

Lastly is the dreaded Pagan Standard Time issue. I’ve watched the toe-tapping and frowning in my direction when I am late for some rituals and events. I’ve learned to flat out ignore it. I’ve also learned to flat out ignore the sullen commentary made when others are running on Pagan Standard Time. Nine times out of ten, its not their fault. Traffic in a large metro area can be difficult at any given moment or time, regardless of how “prepared” someone tried to be. I’ve always tried my best to set my life into a position of patience and understanding when “stuff happens.” Plus, I’m fairly certain that the Gods aren’t going to be upset if the ritual starts twenty minutes later or if Susie couldn’t make it on time to take her role in the ritual and had to be replaced at the last minute by Betty. Its taken a lot of my thirty-four years within Paganism to become more patient and understand…but I’ve managed it. Surely others could as well, but I can’t speak for them.

So, what’s a ritual for? What are these gatherings meant for us to do? Should we all be on our collective knees throughout the event so that we lie prostrate before our Gods? Humbling ourselves before the Beings that we give reverence to. Well, I work with two Trickster Gods who spent a lot of my earlier teachings getting me to understand the significance of having a spine and respect for myself – even when approaching Them or any other God. Certainly, the Gods deserve our respect, and even our awe. But my Gods didn’t want me crawling before Them. The same holds true for rituals and gatherings. There are times for somber, quiet, serene reflection. But we are together. We celebrate being here still – together. We will laugh, carry-on, hug, and act like incomparable children. We are celebrating Life, another turn of the Wheel. We will also spend time remembering those who couldn’t attend, and those who have passed beyond the veil since the last time we laid eyes on one another. We will also celebrate all the new people we will met, learning about them as they learn about us. Welcoming them into our family that exists physically for a few days, and much longer beyond.

I’ve never viewed Pagans as a dour people, constantly bending their knees to the Gods, never smiling, never cavorting in the celebration of daily existence. Honestly, if I wanted that – I would have stayed in the southern Baptist faith back when I was seventeen. Ritual is an observance of a point in time that has meaning in our lives. There are serious moments to be had, but I’ve always seen it as an extension of the gathering – not the source of it. How you dress – matters not one bit. What matters is what is in your heart and in your soul. If reverence and serene activity is what you equate to ritual – awesome. That works for you. That’s not where my mind takes me. Its not where my soul feels free to express itself. Every gathering I attend, every ritual I observe, every step of every day…I try my very best to find the joy in my life. That’s far easier among my Pagan family. I may practice my Druidry alone, but I don’t live my life in solitude.

–Tommy /|\

Thinking About: Compassion, Prayers, Hope – I’m Not the Warrior I Once Was

I have to admit, its hard to write about things lately. Images of the destruction in Ukraine are haunting reminders that not all is “right” with the world. I’m upset by what I see. I’m upset by what NATO won’t do to bring an end to all that chaos. But I also have to remind myself that there’s not much that I can do either.

That feeling of helplessness, of inactivity, of inability to be able to make any measured progress towards a substantial change…Its hard to quantify, but its there. And its such a crippling feeling. I have no money to provide to the refugees coming out of the war zones. At my age, and my health conditions, I’d be an ineffective combatant in the military excursions. All I can do is provide my empathy and curb my outrage towards my country’s leaders at what is occurring. The thing is, I understand their inaction. Having served as a member of a NATO command and control unit (Aliied Tactical Operations Center 3 in Sembach, Germany), I’m well aware of Article V and the limitations it presses into play in regards to a non-NATO country. Still, while NATO is following its own rules, it still feels “wrong” within my own soul to have countries stand on the sidelines, watching the attack on Ukraine in the same manner that a neighbor might stand in their backyard and watch the house next-door burn.

Some of the driving aspects of Druidry are aimed towards compassion for others, justice for those that have been wronged…but what happens when you can put neither into effect? For me, this is when I lean on my Gods that much harder. I am reminded that there is only so much I can do. So much that I can shoulder from others. I have my own issues to manage. I have my own needs to feed. If I were to shirk those responsibilities, I would be weakened further and not be of any use to others when I can truly make a difference. It’s a tough position to be reminded of, but there’s truth in it that I cannot push against.

I’m ex-military. I see conflicts like this one, and I feel that clarion call to action. I’m older now. Much older. I’m not the young man I once was. I have my share of health issues that have sapped my ability to be what I used to be. Answering a clarion call towards military-style response is no longer in these bones. The old saying of becoming the horse that was put out to pasture to live a comfortable life is a real thing. But my mind remains sharp. My empathy doesn’t get automatically turned off either. I can’t pick up a rifle and head into combat, but I can approach my Gods (and others) to find relief for those that need it.

Crow, Coyote, Abnoba…any Others that might hear what I ask. Please find ways to help the civilians within Ukraine find safety during this invasion. Help the families who lose loved ones in this senseless violence. Let them understand the bravery of their lost loved ones to stand in the face of tyranny. Help the Russian military members to realize that violence against people who were once citizens of the same conglomerate not that long ago are still the brothers and sisters they should remember. I know that I cannot ask You to stop things of history that are already in motion. All I ask is that the pain be lessened to any degree for those that need it.

Yes, I am doing the dreaded “thoughts and prayers” here. I have nothing else that I can offer. I refuse to handle spell work or magick within all of this. Unless you want to consider my simple prayer to the Gods to be such. I’m skint monetarily. I’m physically unable to be the warrior I once was. The Priestly side of things is all I have left in my quiver. I offer all I have left, knowing it is not nearly enough…not even close.

I know I am writing about things that many people don’t want to read or hear. They get enough of this from the news. Images of orphanages being emptied ahead of the troops. Apartment buildings burned out, collapsed, and looking devoid of all life. The sounds and sights of a military invader attacking civilians indiscriminately. The stories of families separating, as people transit from their civilian life to becoming the rag-tag defenders of their lands, way of life, and beliefs. Would I do the same in their shoes were this visited here upon my country? Of course, I would. Even within this older, somewhat broken shell. I would fight an invader with the same spirit that the Ukrainians are displaying. I pledged my life in the protection of the Constitution of this country, and its lands. For me, that oath never ended, and never will. I completely grok the spirit of the Ukrainian people.

I have always looked at the phrase of “thoughts and prayers” that gets bandied about by many Christians in this country as a completely useless phrase. Today, I understand it to some degree a little better. I have nothing else I can offer to the Ukrainian people. But I still hate the phrase. Especially coming from people who have a lot more than I do. But I can’t make them feel for others, especially for others that don’t match their political and religious mores. I can’t force people to do a damn thing, and I never want that kind of power over others. I still believe in people making up their own minds and offering their own actions – even when I disagree with them. When they turn on their televisions and watch the news like it’s a daily soap opera – I can’t force them to feel compassion for others. I can only wish for the day when I am as solvent as they are, so that I can help a bit more.

So, how do I work through this helplessness within my Druidry? Well, I start by remembering a battlefield axiom that I was taught in my eight years in the military. When you see others bleeding from wounds, you have to fix your wounds first. If you don’t sop the bleeding on yourself, you won’t be able to help others with their wounds. I’m in no position to help others in a manner that I wish to. So, I do what I can, and hope that’s enough for now. I do the best that I can. All I have to offer at this moment are my prayers to the Gods. For the moment, all I can do is hope that is enough.

–T /|\

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Thinking About: Connective Druidry, and Being a ‘Role Model’

In about a week and a half, I will find myself once again in Louisiana for the OBOD Gulf Coast Gathering. The last two years, the event has not been held over COVID concerns (rightly so). This year, there was some question over the possibility due to weather-related damages at the camp that has been used the previous years. However, this year’s camp will be held at a new location, a short distance to the west of where it was held before. I’m glad that this is occurring, as many of the people that attend or what I consider to be family. But there’s more than just that. There’s also the time spent around the fire – the talking, the singing, the laughing, the sharing of our lives together. That connectedness…that shit matters to me. The only thing that could keep me away? The cost of fuel to get there.

In yesterday’s blog post, I joked about my “Connective Druidry” but I am starting to think there’s something more there than just a catchy phrase. As I noted, my Druidry is about connections – connections to other people, to the environment around me, well…literally, everything. But there are folks that will ask me about my spell work, the rituals that I work with, how I work with my Gods….the stuff that a lot of other Pagans seem to place in that realm of “advanced Paganism” which I considered to be a garbage phrase. Connectivity includes all of that stuff. In my approach to Druidry…there’s nothing that places things in an “advanced” phrasing. Life isn’t set up in phases of 101, 201, 301, etc collegiate coursework. Life is….well, life. Druidry is the approach to living. Looking to connections and how things fit together to be a part of living.

In other words, you want to do spell work? Do it!! You want to emphasize rituals in your approach? Do it!! If neither of those calls to your spirit, that’s perfectly fine. At least try the stuff to determine how things go before you push it away. What works for you is what CONNECTS with you. That’s important. That’s the stuff that rocks your soul. That’s the stuff that makes you excited to approach each day with the hope of new eyes.

For me, its finding, exploring, understanding, and cultivating connections with everything around me. That’s my Druidry. That’s the stuff that excites me. That’s what drives me. Being out in the woods with a walking stick, a pair of good hiking boots, and a pack with water and some food…I have everything I need. Well, except for a pen and a journal to write with. Rituals…not so much. These have particular uses. So does spell work, but I don’t have tight connectivity with spells. It’s a tool that I don’t rely on for much. I know that runs as anathema to many other Pagans, but I would also note that not every Pagan does Paganism the same as others and that’s really ok. The point isn’t whether anyone is doing the stuff that you do. The point is that you are doing the things that bring meaning to your everyday life without causing harm to others.

In yesterday’s post, I was pointing out the openly outward connectivity that we have with others. The way that we provide others with the drive and determination to do what they are seeking – just by being there for them. Helping to inspire them to keep moving forward, to keep seeking. What about the ones we don’t know about? What about the ones who silently watch what we do, how we do it, when we do it?

I loathe the idea of being a role model for any individual. I am one fucked up individual. I have made some beautifully disastrous mistakes in my life – quite a few on display for the whole world to fucking see. In many respects, I am no one to model your life after. However, some people have found inspiration from me. So you never know who might be watching and what they might take away from what you do. A type of connectivity that you never see…and sometimes never know. I initiated into Bardic and Ovate grades at Gulf Coast Gathering. One of the folks who initiated into the Bardic grade with me was inspired to finish and be initiated into the Ovate grade the next year. He surprised me with the news when I arrived at camp that year – being the second person to welcome me face-to-face. Somewhere, somehow…he got inspiration from my push to move from Bardic to Ovate grade…and never made a comment to me until that day. Connectivity and inspiration that I never knew about.

There will be those who will poo-poo some of what I’ve said here. Truthfully, I’m ok with that. My life, as fucked up as it has been, has never been about gaining the approval of others. When I have stooped to that mark – going overboard to gain the approval of another – I’ve found that it wasn’t worth any of the effort. The approval I needed was my own.

At the end of The Breakfast Club, one of my favorite movies, the students had been asked to individual write a paper explaining to the principal who they thought they were. The group opted for a single member to write a paper that would explain each of them. Their answer:

We accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was we did wrong. What we did was wrong, but we think you’re crazy to make us to write an essay telling you who we think we are. What do you care? You see us as you want to see us: in the simplest terms, the most convenient definitions. You see us as a Brain, an Athlete, a Basketcase, Princess, and a Criminal. Correct? That’s the way we saw each other at 7 o’clock this morning. We were brainwashed.

My perspective of “Connective Druidry” is not what I would consider to be commonplace. The aspects that I place emphasis do not follow the simplest ideas or the most convenient definitions. Many will see this as me placing myself into a “special” category…something “different”. Not really. My Druidry, just as your Druidry will be for you, is unique because I am unique. That’s not something “special” or “extra-ordinary”…its just me. I’m no super-hero. I’m no supreme Arch-Druid. I’m not even a leader, unless someone places me in those spots. Even then, I’d be more likely to shrug off the cape, push aside the symbolism – and still proclaim myself to be just the simple human being that I am. My connections make me what I am. My connections provide me with my strength, my inner definition…and I prefer it that way.

The sleep is still in my eyes
The dream is still in my head
I heave a sigh and sadly smile
And lie awhile in bed

Rush, “Soliloquy” “2112”

–Tommy /|\

Thinking About: Abstract Thoughts on Dying…

Today, I find myself getting ready for an unplanned, and lengthy drive north. The passing of a friend never sets one in a “great” frame of mind. But funeral rites are an important part of the process – a process for those that are still living here.

I remember when my parents passed within six months of one another. My mother, who passed first was cremated. Six months later, while I was at my first OBOD Gulf Coast Gathering, I was informed of my father’s passing. A few weeks later, I was contacted by the funeral director at the cemetery in the gated, retirement community my parents had built their home in. Apparently, my father had never picked up my mother’s ashes to have those interred. Now, I had the ashes of both of my parents to inter. I contacted my sister in Louisiana and asked her to come up for the interment. She declined. I stood in front of the columbarium’s two niches that my father had purchased for their final physical resting place. I watched as each urn, inscribed with my parents’ names was placed in their respective niches. No words were spoken. I watched silently as each little door was closed and secured, locking my parents’ physical remains into their place.

My parents never wished for a ceremony for their funerals. They wanted the family to live their lives rather than “wailing and crying over their passing” (my father’s exact words to me shortly after my mother had passed). As I have noted in the blog before, I was never close to my parents. My mother was a domineering individual who had my entire life planned for. I was to go to college, get degrees aiming me towards being a doctor, and marry a particular young lady that she knew back in Germany. I’m serious. She had it all planned out for me. I screwed all that up by joining the Air Force. But she still wanted that marriage to go through. I had other (hasty) plans. I married my first wife before I was deployed overseas. After that, I was considered the “disappointment” of the family. So, my relationship with my mother was always contentious. It didn’t change that she was my mother. I still loved her. In my own way. To my father, I wasn’t conservative enough to be “useful” in his eyes. Still, we tried our best to keep a cordial relationship between one another. Despite all of that, I still would have preferred some kind of ceremony to remember them when I placed them in the columbarium. Instead, I deferred to their wishes.

What happens when we pass? Well, I don’t claim to know a damn thing about that. I believe in reincarnation and past lives, though I have no way of proving or disproving the concept. I’m not sure that I would even care if there was a way to prove or disprove the concept. I believe in what I believe because it brings comfort to my life. Comfort in the idea that there is more than just this life. There are people that I have met that I have strong connections with that I cannot explain. Past life experience? Past lives that recognize one another? Possibly. That doesn’t mean that what was compatible or strong in the Past remains the same in the Present.

I’m getting older. Let’s face facts, we all are. Our time in this life is a finite one. I look back on where I’ve been. Part of looking back comes with the inevitable peek at the long line of friends and family that have passed beyond the veil to become specters of what has been. All the while, I hear Crow whispering in my ear “What’s necessary is forward, not backwards.” Still, I occasionally feel the road getting shorter and shorter. To quote Garth Brooks:

The competition’s getting younger
Tougher broncs, you know I can’t recall
The worn out tape of Chris LeDoux, lonely women and bad booze
Seem to be the only friends I’ve left at all

And the white line’s getting longer and the saddle’s getting cold
I’m much too young to feel this damn old
All my cards are on the table with no ace left in the hole
I’m much too young to feel this damn old

Garth Brooks, “Much Too Young to Feel This Damn Old”

From a dream….

Looking out over the wide-open countryside, I slide off the top rail of the metal fence that snakes from horizon to horizon. On the other side of the fence, is the land I know. Where I’ve lived. Where I’ve adventured. On the side of the fence that I now stand, I watch the setting sun drift below the horizon, shrouding the unknown into darkness. The distant mountains that call me, slowly fade into the dark fabric of night. The soft sounds of the night begin to arrive as I lean back against the fence. That adventure will happen soon enough, I remind myself. I still have a lot to accomplish on the other side of this fence. I place my left foot on the bottom rail and swing my right leg over. Shifting my weight, I move my body over the top rail to land on the other side of the fence. I mount the motorcycle and kick the engine to life. Time to go back. Back to my responsibilities. Back to where I need to be. Back to what I am meant to do. I glance over my shoulder at the mountains that have completely disappeared in the gloom of the night. Someday. Just not right now. There are things to do. People whose lives I still belong in.

–T /|\

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Thinking About: The Past Two Days, the Future, Ukraine

Watching the news this morning, I was reminded of how much fear and trepidation I felt during the first Gulf War. All the uncertainty. All the attempts to think along with the strategy points that were being made. I can sympathize with the feeling of terror and sadness that the Ukrainian people are feeling at this moment. War, in whatever form, is not the easiest moment to deal with. Your life is turned upside-down. Most people may feel a disbelief that another country would want to wage such unthinkable actions on another country – and typically all in the name of power and territory.

Most people just cannot fathom the driving forces behind a decision to wage war. In the case of Vladimir Putin, he made it quite clear in his “history lecture” of a speech the day before. He sees Ukraine as an illegitmate country, created by the failings of Boris Yeltsin, when Ukraine was allowed to secede from the Soviet Union in 1991 under his watch. The next day, after Russian forces started their attacks, Putin made an additional speech, noting that the attacks were meant to defend Russians from “genocide” and to “de-nazify” Ukraine. A somewhat strange statement considered the Ukrainian president is a Jew. But all of this is the justification that Putin is using for his aggression. I, for one, hear the echoes of similar perspectives echoing through history from 1936 Germany.

Whatever the justification, everything has been placed into motion. The Ukrainian people are confused by the fog of war. The rest of the world…well, it feels like it is confused from where I sit. However, currently the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is sitting back at the borders of their most eastern Europe member states. I can only wonder if we ever learned any one thing from the inactivity of Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain as a response to Adolph Hitler’s military buildup prior to his blitzkrieg against Poland in 1939. Or are we doomed to repeat a similarly failed strategy while Puton and Russian forces rampage through the Ukrainian countryside.

What can we, as Pagans, do in the face of all of this. As trite as it sounds – we can offer prayers to our Gods. Not asking Them to intercede – not on our own selfish wants and desire – but in the interest of keeping our world as calm as possible. Beyond that, I don’t see much that I feel “right and correct” about directing a larger Pagan community to do. I don’t control anyone else’s actions but my own. It would be unwise and selfish of me to direct everyone else to do things the way I feel it should be done. I’ve never felt comfortable telling anyone how they should or not approach any situation.

What will I do? For the moment, there’s not much I can do – except what I normally do. Go about my regular day. There’s nothing I can add or commit that will change what is happening or the plight of the Ukrainian people. I will; however, keep my eyes and ears open for any opportunity that presents itself, which I can provide my energy and strength to. Here at home, prices for groceries, gas, and other fungible resources are likely to sky-rocket in cost. Once the front here in central Tejas clears, I will set about trying to grow some vegetables for my home consumption. As hypocritical as it sounds, I will also start paying tighter attention to the news than I have been. Staying informed will be important. And Gods, I certainly hope that Democrats and Republicans can set aside their differences and pay a lot more attention to the news of those military members in the field, currently in potential harm’s way. Those that raised their hands and swore to defend the Constitution and this country from aggressors foreign and domestic certainly deserve more than a pair of parties bickering with one another, trying to score useless political points.

I know, very well, that this conflict – as well as the resulting sanctions and whatever actions are decided to be visited upon Russia – will have massive ripples throughout our world economy. At no other point in our collective histories, have we ever been so tied to one another than we are in the global marketplace. The repercussions will not be for the Russian people alone. We will all feel the energy of this conflict in various ways. We are all in this together, like it not. My initial concern is for the Ukrainian people, who will need the world’s help immediately to survive this ploy of Russia’s strong-man. May the Gods protect us all…even the aggressors in all of this. For we are all human, despite our differences, and deserve to all be treated with equal respect. Even when none is given by one representative side in the beginning. After all, someone needs to break the cycle of hatred at some point.

–T /|\

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Thinking About: Limits, Teaching, Day-By-Day – Its a Real Life, Its Here Every Day

I get accused of all kinds of political positions by people I know. My right-wing family thinks I’m a hard-core Leftist. My Leftist friends this I’m a Right-winger. My Independent friends, who are stuck here in the middle with me, understand me better than most. But all of that is just labels that get thrown around in a quest to dominate conversations and perspectives. In my mid-fifties, I’m used to all of this now. Most of the time, when I get a label adhered to me, I just smile, end the conversation, and move on with my day. Trying to argue points over what I see and feel is a waste of time for me. And honestly, I have so much more to do with my day that is far more productive with my energy and time.

However, all of that does draw a point in the area of power dynamics, which plays out more and more in our everyday lives. Thanks to former President Trump, we were thrust into this dynamic of “winning v. losing.” From that, we’ve come to a perspective that my former boss liked to refer to as “domination.” For me, it’s a perspective I don’t ascribe to whatsoever. I’m not out to dominate a single individual, lord my knowledge as a means to control them, or whatever other descriptive you want to add. That’s probably why I’ve never accepted a student to teach in Paganism, and I have had people request that from me.

I am a teacher. I’ve been in a collegiate classroom before (and hope one day to be again). When I was teaching Information Technology, I was very careful not to promote one technology over another. I always ducked the inevitable browser-war and operating system debates by pointing out that each had its own merits, and the choice was up to the individual user. The same holds true in politics, from my perspective. That even gets down to debates on food, religion, and what have you. Life, itself, is a series of choices that we continually make. Gods, I would hate to draw the flowchart on my own life to this point. All the choices, all the dead-ends that would form loops in the flowchart – what a mess it would be. But then Life is messy.

So, why no Pagan students? Wouldn’t I want to teach others my brand of Paganism? No, not really. Pushing people towards my way of thinking and believing would, in my opinion, rob them of the experience of exploring for themselves. Everything that I would teach someone about Paganism could fit into a thimble and be easily disseminated through a late-night conversation around a fire drinking liquids of our individual choosing.

What about those who lord their opinions of what it means to be a Pagan over me? Well, we’ve seen that with the inane fundamentalist movement nearly a decade back with “Are you Pagan enough?” The answer to that question for ANYONE in Paganism is “yes.” Even if you’re just dipping your pinkie-toe in the water. No one gets to dictate the depth or breadth of another individual’s Paganism. In a way, this is why I don’t want to set myself up as some classroom-like teacher of Paganism. I don’t want to “grade” someone’s ability to be a Pagan based on some subjective set of lessons that I created. You tell me that you’re a Pagan – as far as I’m concerned, you are. And I am no authority on you or what you are.

I’m staunchly a solo Pagan. Solitaire. Solitary. Whatever descriptive you want to apply to it. That’s your label, use it as you like. But I am not bashing and smashing on groups. Groups work for other people. Groups provide the needed support for some. Groups provide the structure that others find useful and helpful. Groups, for me, provide comradery and friendship. Nothing wrong with any of that.

With all that out of the way (sort of), let me circle back to why I don’t take on students, and dive a touch deeper. When I get people asking me to teach them about Paganism, I tend to point them elsewhere, to people who already do this (and far better than I could) such as John Beckett. If people are looking for me to teach them about Druidry, I point them to OBOD, ADF or BDO. Those organizations already have structures that lend towards teaching that is better than anything I could devise off-handedly. If they are looking for teaching on Wicca…well, I point them to Wiccans that I know. Hard for me to teach anyone about Wicca. I’m not a Wiccan, and what I do know of Wicca comes from what little training I had over three decades ago. Better to point them to far more knowledgeable resources.

I know some folks will look at all of that as a cop-out on my part. I know my limits. I’m aware of the pitfalls. While I do what I consider to be a good job at teaching Information Technology in a classroom environment, that doesn’t qualify me as a good teacher/mentor in a Pagan setting. Like I pointed out, I know people are better equipped to do that in such a setting. I’d rather a potential student got better training elsewhere than get shoddy, shitty training from me. As I noted, I know my limits.

The same holds true for joining a group or creating a group out of thin air and becoming its leader. I already struggle with concepts such as “Priest” and “Elder” – I don’t need the extra struggle of being a leader as well. I know my limits.

Sure, being a single individual in Paganism affords me a great deal of freedom, which I prize highly. It also affords a lot of loneliness as well. A lot of figuring it out on my own. A lot of self-reliance. A lot of failed attempts at things which has only one direction for blame – right here in this seat at my desk. Through trial and error – a LOT of trial and error – I navigate through the waters of Paganism and Druidry. Its not a journey for the faint of heart. In the thirty-plus years of being on this path, its NEVER been easy. Going it alone is rough and difficult on its best days. Some folks have no choice though. They live in areas where they are isolated from other Pagans because of distance. To those people, my hat is off to you. You travel a Path of broken glass because there is no other Path. I grok your frustrations. I sympathize with your trial, and error solutions.

I have no desire to “win” at any part of Life. I have no desire to “dominate” at any single thing. For me, living Life is about experiencing the good, the bad, the ugly, the unforgiveable, the mistakes that you never thought would be mistakes. Being alive doesn’t have a scope of winning, losing or any such nonsense. Unless…you want to count waking up each morning. Maybe that’s a way of seeing “winning.” Maybe. Sometimes, I’ll post on Facebook that I made it to another weekend, and that I was unsure of how I managed to get there. Well, the real point is that I managed to get there. Exactly how I managed it is not really necessary. We all claw, scratch, bite, punch, and wrestle with our days…just not ever day. Sometimes the days are nicer to us. Whether we win, dominate, lose, draw, what have you….we still experience. We learn from those experiences. We grow from our struggles, our happiness, even our “blah” days. In the 1980s movie “Red Dawn”, when US Air Force Colonel is about to head across the battlefield to try and get back to his units, the young adults who are with him marvel at the tanks fighting there, he remarks: “ Its a real war, kid. Its here every day.” Well, its a real Life folks, its here every day.

–T /|\

Thinking About: What to Do When You Lose the Path – Keep Walking

Over the weekend, I wrote about some of the differences in knowing your Path and walking your Path. Apparently, it resonated with a lot of people, since I got a few comments and questions on it. I’m always happy when something I write about resonates with people, not for the clicks on the blog post (I don’t pay attention to the stats that much), but because it provides some food for thought for others. Or it may provide a moment of synchronicity to confirm thoughts and perspectives that they have been mulling over, essentially providing that spark of Awen that they needed to move forward on their own Path. That stuff makes me extremely happy. I like when people feel that moment…they always provide a hint of radiance for that extra little nudge.

One really awesome thing that comes from these blog posts are questions, which further everything into something akin to a linear discussion. That’s where today’s blog post is going. I got asked what I believe is an interesting follow-on to the weekend’s blog post:

What happens when you lose the Path? How do you find the Path again?

To be openly honest, I’ve only been asked this once or twice in my entire time on my own Pagan Path. However, I have some personal experience I can relay that might (I emphasize might) be helpful.

When I was in the Air Force, I was originally stationed at Carswell Air Force Base in Fort Worth, Texas. I was still learning about the myriad of directions I had available to me within Paganism. The Wiccan coven that I was part of was a ninety-minute drive one way. Plus, their gatherings on the weekends usually collided with my workdays. I worked twelve-to-fourteen-hour days or nights, depending on my shift, on the weekends. So, my face-to-face time was somewhat limited. To provide a more consistent method of contact, the High Priest and High Priestess created a spot on the electronic Bulletin Board System where I could gather materials for the classes I missed – so I could keep up. In 1990 (still in my Rainbow year), I was deployed overseas to Germany. The change in my permanent duty station was a culture shock for me, particularly in my studies within Wicca. The Pagans I encountered there were all solo individuals. No covens or groups for study. The group that I helped to found in Kaiserslautern was more a social gathering of like-minded individuals. The rituals that I did attend were mostly flat with group energy, since we were all unfamiliar with one another. The only real connection I had to Paganism was through Circle Sanctuary and their monthly newsletter that I received via US Post.

I felt more “at home” with my habitual long walks in the forests around Kaiserslautern than I did anywhere else. The three years I spent there felt like complete desolation. What little I knew of being a Pagan felt small, unfinished, and somewhat empty. To put it in a different light, it felt like I had been walking along a well-worn trail in the forest when I was in the States and in constant communication with that coven of folks. When I made it to Germany, it felt like the trail had slowly disappeared under my feet. Like those who had gone before had walked to a certain point, and then turned back. The well-worn Path slowly disappeared until I found myself alone in a deep, dark forest, surrounded by trees that had grown very close together. Under my feet, there was no longer the worn trace of path, but a wide expanse of dried, fallen Pine needles. Going forward meant walking where there was no Path. Going backwards meant trying to find a trail that had dissipated so far behind me that I wasn’t sure of being able to successfully trace my way back.

I’m not sure if any of you has ever been lost in the forest or in a wide-open, unpopulated area in the country. Not knowing which way to go can be a very scary proposition. This was the feeling I had on my Path back in 1994. I was in Germany, connected only with Pagans who felt just as lost as I did. Our safety lines back home was limited to letters or the occasional (and very expensive) long distance call home. For me, contact with my former coven was limited. That feeling of isolation was immense. Being new (relatively – I had been on my Path for less then six years…calculating in my head….more like less than five) I wasn’t sure of my footing or direction in what I was to do. In the three years I was in Germany, I purchased about ten books on Wicca and Paganism. I tried to follow what these books taught, but I was unsure of what I was doing. When I finally departed the US military and came back to the States, I found so many things had changed in a little over a thousand days. My coven was gone, having disbanded and all of the members scattered to anonymity. The Dallas Witch Wars were coming to their end, with groups basically ignoring one another. I felt like my entire world had been destroyed and all I had left was pure desolation and the prospect of even more isolation.

I had moved away from the Dallas/Fort Worth metro-mess and headed across the border to Shreveport/Bossier City in the northwest corner of Louisiana. Back home to my parents. A few months later, I decided to look up my grandmother Priestess, who ran a Pagan store in Grand Prairie, Texas. A four-hour drive one way. When I walked into her store, she was behind the counter – just as I remembered her being back when I was stationed at Carswell. It took a few minutes of talking before she remembered me. We spent a few minutes catching up before she asked me what brought me in. I explained my feelings of being lost and isolated. Did all of that mean I wasn’t meant to be a Pagan? That Wicca wasn’t for me? She laughed, placed a hand on my arm, and started her perspective of me. “Wicca is probably not your Path, but Paganism is your vehicle. You need to spend some time exploring a bit more. You’ll find where you belong.” She handed me a copy of Margot Adler’s “Drawing Down the Moon” which I handed back. I already had a copy in my library. “Pick it back up. Reread it. You’ll find new directions to go.”

I followed that advice. I went back and reread the book. As I did, I started to see the various directions to go. I also realized that my Paganism was mine to live. I didn’t need the agreement or praise of another to know what I was doing was “right.” I just had to do it. If I had questions, there were others that I could seek out and drop questions to. But in the end, the “rightness” of what I was doing depended on me more than anyone else.

Don’t be fooled. The above paragraph took about another three years for me to slowly realize. It took even more time for me to find my footsteps bringing me back to Druidry. That’s right. Back. I had stood at the doorstep of Druidry very early in my Pagan Path and decided that it wasn’t really for me. It probably wasn’t back at that time, but it was when I found my footfalls approaching it again. That moment is about twelve years into my past now.

So, how to get back on your Path? What to do when you feel lost or isolated? Well, I’ll quote Winston Churchill here. “If you’re going through Hell, keep going.” Its fairly Christian in thought, but its useful (at least to me) when you’re going through a period of feeling lost or isolated. That feeling of desolation, in my opinion, is the epitome of the Christian myth of Hell. Some red-skinned dude with a forked tail and a pitchfork doesn’t scare me. But that feeling of being lost, alone, and having no direction…scares the shit out of me. But when you’re there – in that point of Hell – just keep walking. And if you’re lonely…reach out. I know how you feel. My door of communication is always open.

–Tommy /|\

Thinking About: Knowing the Path vs. Walking the Path

Its no secret that I enjoy the original trilogy of Matrix movies. For me, there’s a lot of symmetry in some of the lessons that the main character of Neo goes through, and my own life – particularly in the training sequences with Morpheus in the first movie. Neo struggles to adapt to his new world, to understand the rules of his environment – essentially re-learning how to be himself. Then comes the rescue sequence of Morpheus within the Matrix, and Neo suddenly starts to comprehend some of his abilities, enough to save Trinity from a crashing helicopter. Then Morpheus makes the statement that really brought it all together for Neo, and a statement that reminds me of my own place within this world that we all inhabit:

There is a difference between knowing the Path and walking the Path.

Morpheus, “The Matrix”

This one quote is, at least for me, a grounding mechanism. A singular statement that reminds me of where I belong. This keeps my feet firmly on the ground, precisely on the path where I belong.

Hopefully, none of that is confusing. If it is, let me explain a bit more in-depth. Some of this goes back to the conversations at that rarely used exit door at Bossier Parish Community College that I have mentioned in the last two posts. At that point, I had been on my Pagan Path for somewhere close to a decade. I felt like I knew enough to be a “wise” helper for other people stepping into their Paganism. I had that feeling that I was a guru that was placed there to help others through the minefield of starting on their Path. I was a pretentious little shit in ways I could never dream of. Looking back now, Gods, I felt like I knew it all. Of course, I didn’t even know enough to fill a thimble to the halfway point. Sitting in on those conversations, I was treated like I was the be-all, end-all of Paganism. It took another three years for me to realize that I knew nothing more than the singular corner I was living in. There was so much more to Paganism for me to learn about. More than I could ever fathom. Paganism was a wider, deeper ocean than the small, knee-deep pond I had been living within.

Now, nearly twenty-five years beyond that point, I’m a much different Pagan. I appreciate so much more of the world around me. As I watch this morning’s very cold sunrise from my desk, the world reminds me that there is so much more to experience. Each morning brings a new sunrise – unique, alive, and different from the previous days before it. Each new day affords a new experience for me to encounter. Some of it is like yesterday and the days before it, but if I look closer, I find those new experiences…those footfalls which breath new, fresh air into my day. And the above quote from the Matrix reminds me that my experiences and encounters will be different from everyone else’s. We’re all individuals who receive much the same input but process it in ways that no one else will. At least not the same.

Every so often, I get asked why I don’t write books. Well, I have no desire to be seen as an “ultimate guru.” Not by a single soul. I know my Path. I experience my Path daily. Knowing and experiencing my Path are different things. One is understanding where I am, who I am, what I can and cannot do. The other is actually living that Path. Experiencing things with each footfall. What I have learned is that a book cannot adequately explain either point to someone wanting to know and walk their Druidry, their Paganism, their Path. I’m not a healer. I’m not a Shaman. I’m nobody of any extra-ordinary ability. I’m not even a teacher. My Path is not meant to have me sitting at the top of mountain. Cross-legged, in a meditative state, waiting for acolytes and seekers to find me so that I can dispense arcane wisdom for their undivided attention. Rather, I’m here to live and experience the day in whatever fashion it presents itself to me. To see the sunrises. To experience the sunsets. To listen to the magick of music, just like I am listening to Tommy Shaw and Jack Blades marvelous album “Influences” right now.

Everyone experiences their own Path differently. We all came to our various paths in Paganism because we “knew” this was the right place for us to be. We know this path is meant for our feet, even if its just to explore it a short way to be sure that this “calling” is right for us. But to find that “rightness” of the Path, we must do more than just “know.” We must experience it. We must live it in the manner that makes sense to us, individually. Do you find that daily morning rituals bring strong meaning to you? Then do that. Do you find that pouring libations to a God or Goddess brings powerful, emotive feelings for you? Then do it. If you’re not sure, then continue doing those things until you are sure…even if its to be sure that it doesn’t work for you. You won’t know until you try. Knowing your Path is one thing. Walking your Path is that step beyond, where theory meets experience. I can’t tell you how it works. I can only tell you that you will never know until you experience it for yourself.

When I was in high school, my parents put me into Catholic schools. I had classes on the theological aspects of church teachings. In every class, I was at a disadvantage to my classmates. The vast majority of them were members of the Catholic faith. They had experienced many of the mysteries of church teaching. I only had the theory. When our school attended Catholic masses, once a month, I got to watch – first-hand – many of the things I had been taught in those classes. I got to witness the beauty of those liturgies, and these were beautiful expressions of their faith. I didn’t partake though. Even then, I knew my Path was not here. I also knew that experiencing the practices of this faith would be cold, empty exercises of rote expression. There was beauty in what was being done, but it was empty in the expression of the beauty of faith for me. I knew my Path. Walking the Path of their faith would provide no meaning to me. The difference between knowing one’s Path and walking one’s Path.

So many people walk a Path in the hopes of becoming someone well-known in that faith. A few actually do become that. Usually, they find a manner to express their faith in a manner that resonates with others. Writing books, giving presentations, expressing their joy through musical performances, creating art in many different fashions…but not everyone reaches those heights. Some become leaders of their groups. Some become teachers. Many don’t reach those heights either. Because of that, many question whether this was their Path to walk. Perhaps, the problem was in wanting to be seen, respected, and adored….for whatever reason. Not everyone is meant to be that in their Path. That doesn’t and shouldn’t diminish who you are in your Path. Living your chosen Path is about growing yourself in your Path.

Being a Pagan, for example, doesn’t mean that every day will be like a Dungeons and Dragons encounter. Or that it ever will. If that’s the way you are experiencing your Paganism, and it disappoints you…let me reiterate here. Your Path brings experiences and meaning to you. What those experiences mean, that’s for you to determine. The fact that none of it seems like a mystical encounter doesn’t diminish anything that you have experienced. Stop. Look at the sunrise or sunset right in front of you. Look around your neighborhood. See the children playing. Your neighbor doing their chores. The dogs barking at the squirrels who are chiding them from the top of the fence. All of that is here and now, in this moment. Find the beauty in what you are experiencing. Its great to be alive. Find ways to experience all of that as part of your Path.

Now, I am in no way telling you how to experience your own Path. Nor am I telling you how to do your Paganism. I’d be a fool to go back to that point in my first decade of Paganism and believe that I know everything. Not even here – thirty-five years into being a Pagan. I’m well aware that there is so much more to Paganism than my small drop of experience in that ocean. But even with those thirty-five years, I am no expert on your Path. Even if your Path is the same as mine: Pagan, Polytheist Druid in the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids. We will tread some of the same water, walk some of the same deer trods in the forest, drive some of the same highways…but we are individuals. We experience the same things, the same moments differently because we are individuals. That, in itself, is a comforting thought for me. Life is meant to be lived. Paganism is meant to be experienced. Those two sentences hint at the very reward that such a Life will provide.

–Tommy /|\

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Thinking About: Alpaca Lips – An Opinion

I am doing my usual thing for a weekend blog post. Trying to figure out what to write. In the meantime, I’m drinking coffee, listening to music, and reading Facebook posts from friends digging out from the recent snowfall in the Northeast. We’ve had no snow here in central Texas. Only a few days of freezing weather. All of which sucks, because I love the snow. Not the shoveling part. Not the driving on the stuff part. I love taking walks during the time of snowfall. I love how sound is muffled during this time. How the world quiets down. It does the same thing during fog as well, just not as dramatic. Yeah, the cold is never that pleasant, especially for me. I prefer the warmth. But cold, snowy days do allow for nice fires in the fireplace, sitting in front of the crackling flames, drinking steep cups of hot cocoa, with whatever passes for entertainment of the moment filling the room with the symphony of its noise.

Most people I know down here in Texas hate the winter weather. Unlike those much further north in longitude, Texans freak out when water falls from the sky – in any form. Rain, snow, aquarium water thrown from a second-floor window…its all apocalyptic. The next expectation tends to be frogs raining from the skies, and there is the occasional threat of fish falling from the sky. Honestly, if I saw fish falling from the sky during a storm, my next expectation would be that Sharknado (Gods, what a crappy movie!) was about to happen. 😉

The Alpaca Lips. The end of the times. That moment when the earth stops spinning on its axis and we are all flung into space. Or aliens arrive from space to claim our resources and cleanse the Earth of the plague known as “human-kind.” Or when the tectonic plates shift radically, or the climate shifts to quickly that we all freeze instantly. Or the apocalyptic moment of my generation – two world powers launch nuclear weapons at one another, creating an environment that can sustain none of us. We’ve all seen the notations of death and destruction from so many angles, so many lenses.

Even Pagans see coming doom and destruction through the lens of the culture wars raging between Conservative and Liberal politics here in the United States (and elsewhere). The coming “Storm.” Some say its already here. Some say the worst is still yet to come. At one point, I agreed with that perspective. Now, a few years down the line, not so much. I see the continuation of a cycle. A repeat of a lot of things I saw back in the 1980s, and historically moments that happened in the 1960s and 1970s. We’re in the grips of a cycle that continually occurs.

Yes, there is imminent danger in what is occurring, just as there was back in the 1980s. When I started down my Pagan Path in 1986, Evangelical Christians were in the grips of seeing Satan everywhere. Anything that did not resemble a Christianity that they knew, “observed” in their daily lives, and desired within their own hearts was suspect. The time also lent credence to the charlatans of their cause. People who utilized those fears to sell books, tickets to their concerts and gatherings, and ply their “stories” on the radio and television. Mike Warnke, a Christian “comedian” who peddled tales of joining a massive Satanic cult that was infiltrating America through governments and the United States military. Warnke claimed that he had been indoctrinated during his time in Naval bootcamp, and eventually rose to a “high” position in this organization. Nearly a decade after he first arrived on the scene, a Christian magazine “Cornerstone” uncovered his story as a complete fraud, debunking his claims of a widespread organization. Many others, who had written books and created careers around their false claims, were debunked and discredited as well. But not before families were torn apart, having charges of Satanism, child ritual abuse, and other allegations levied against them. During that time, many preachers and Christian leaders whipped up the fury that was known as the “Satanic Panic.”

Oddly enough, loose-knit “organizations” such as QAnon are working from that same playbook. Whipping up allegations of ritual abuse, human sacrifice, and even cannibalism against the other side of the political spectrum. Much of that has led to a resurgence of the “Satanic Panic” with Warnke (and many others) being touted as having survived all of this and forced to go underground. Publicly, we’re seeing a resurgence of Christian Evangelicals hitting their “panic” buttons and pointing fingers directly at Pagans again with their charges of Satanism, depravity, and such along with a new twist: Pagans apparently want to destroy the American government.

So, is this aspect of the “Culture Wars” here in the States the so-called coming “Storm?” Well, maybe. I’m not one for prying into Crystal Balls, consulting runes, or reading Tarot cards to find that future. Much like when I want to predict the weather, I look to my surroundings, and compares that to what I know has happened in the Past. Sad as it may seem, humans are predictable. We do love an Alpaca Lips. Our collective appetite for novels, movies, and tv shows of that variety are a case in point. So is our society’s collective desire to embrace the most outlandish fears of death, destruction, and widespread chaos. We see our fellow human beings as wild, savage, and capable of the most incomprehensible acts against others.

Me, I prefer to think better of people. But that may be a foolish hope at this point. Story after story of people raining down mental and physical abuse on others – over such things as political preferences – may be the start of the nails in that coffin. Everywhere I look here in central Texas, I see people lining up into two sides. Creating their “Us v. Them” lines of demarcation. Yes, I’ve seen this before. Yes, that was the Satanic Panic at its height. Thankfully, stories were debunked in a manner that brought everyone back to a point of level-headedness. But I truly must wonder if that can be managed this time? At this point, I’m not so sure.

So, what to do? How do we collectively survive all of this? Is this really the so-called “Storm?” Well, we survive together, not apart. If things do hit that apocalyptic moment, be prepared to help others. Most people hate what I am about to say because it doesn’t fit into what they perceive at this time. But those people who are the “Them” in your ‘Us v. Them” paradigm – they are people too. And if the world is going to come crashing down around our ears, they deserve mercy and help as well. I know that’s not a popular mindset, but its where I come from. Most folks know that I am a huge Grateful Dead fan. I happen to do my best to live by something that Mickey Hart, one of the drummers for the Grateful Dead, said at the end of their ‘Fare Thee Well” concerts:

I’ll leave you with this: Please, be kind.

Mickey Hart, 05 July 2015, Chicago, Illinois

–Tommy /|\

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Thinking About: Inherit the Wind, a Lack of Discussion, and Chain-Link Fences to Climb

I just finished watching the 1960 movie “Inherit the Wind” for the millionth time. Well, maybe more like the fiftieth time, but it certainly feels like the millionth. The film, starring Spencer Tracy, Frederic March, Dick York, Harry Morgan, and Donna Anderson, is a parable of the 1925 Scopes “Monkey” Trail. The 1960 film is meant to portray the McCarthyism movement of the late 1950s, where individuals were accused of being un-American during the “Red Scare” of Communism. This was a time where Hollywood celebrities (among others) were black-listed and sometimes jailed as Communist sympathizers. Accusations were freely thrown around, and I daresay that the ripples of this time echo into today’s political culture in various fomentations against what many fundamentalist aspects of society deem as “counter-culture” perspectives.

Indeed, there are moments within the film itself that remind me of permutations of our theological culture as it exists today. When lawyer Henry Drummond and politician Matthew Brady rail against one another’s perspectives of the King James Bible (during the period where Brady is being questioned on the stand as a witness by Drummond), you can watch the immense battle of each one trying to be “right” in the eyes of the jury, judge, and the crowd in the courtroom – you get a good sense of what the issue is between the two sides. A single, overriding desire to be “right.” To “win” at all costs, as Brady uses a private conversation with the accused’s fiancé as a cudgel in the courtroom, irreparably damaging a trust between himself (Brady) and the young lady.

For what little its worth, I’ve watched this battle in many different configurations. Particularly coming from the Evangelical Christian corner. I remember the Satanic Panic of the 1980s, where scores of Pagans, and other non-Pagans were reported to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, which launched investigation after investigation against families – sometimes separating families during these procedures. During that same time frame, other Evangelicals launched their own crusade against popular rock music, claiming Satanic messages were being recorded backwards into the music. Lawsuits against bands such as Ozzy Osbourne, Judas Priest, among others, were launched after children of families committed suicide. The allegation was that the music drove these children to take their lives. Claims of Satanic abuse cropped up from Evangelical Christians, many of whom accepted speaking fees for their tales or wrote books about their harrowing experiences – all of which turned out to be false. In the late 1990s, on into today, right-wing Conservatives (I’m not willing to call these folks Republicans, as their values are far different from the Republicans that I knew in the 1980s) have declared that there is a war on conservative culture, all of which is parroted on the radio and television airwaves by various media “personalities” who spend their time sneering at those whose values are different from their own. That’s the stuff that’s easy to see.

Not so easy to see is the same measures within the rest of modern culture. We’ve had Pagans trying to figure out if you’re “Pagan Enough” to be a Pagan. Other Pagans who sneer and act derisively towards Pagans that are all “light and love” – focusing on the difference between their own Path, which features a self-admitted “darker” side of Paganism. Plus, the constant derision poured on Christians of any stripe. Where the Christians claim their Path’s infallibility comes from a book that they claim as divine inspiration, I’ve heard Pagans claim a similar moral superiority from an “historical” lineage of their belief system that supposedly descends much further into the Past than the Christian faith. As if either perspective has an iron-clad chokehold on the Truth. No divine inspiration? Your Path is a fraud. No historical lineage? Your Path is a delusion.

If you’ve never seen “Inherit the Wind”, I suggest you take the time to watch the movie. Pay attention to the way all the discussions and arguments take place. Keep an eye on how the concept of “truth” is handled. How easy it is for others to just accept the arguments because of their faith and belief without questioning. Pay attention to how easy it is for many of the characters to grasp towards the shroud of “victimhood.” We are no more immune to those processes than we were back in the 1950s at the height of the “Red Scare.” Once you pull the shroud off that concept, its rather easy to look around and see how we’ve managed to come to that same place. Except now the enemies are dressed in politics more so than religious fundamentalist perspectives. We live in a world of “Us” and “Them.” And if you are not “Us” – you’re “Them.” Automagically. Because its easier to live in a world of a bipolar dichotomy than it is to believe the world is more complicated than that.

Yet, our world is more complicated than that. And yet, its also not. Its complicated in the manner that we all approach our connection to the world around us differently. We seek the Divine in our own manner. We accept our Truths in what we experience, and how that occurs. Yet, its not that complicated, as we can boil away all the differences, all the beliefs that we have – all that’s left in the crucible when we’re done are human beings. We’re all the same. We’re all different. All at once. At the same time. Yet, we continue to place everyone into camps of opposing thoughts, and then declare that those who do not agree with us are wrong. Evil. Should be eliminated. Should be denigrated. Humiliated. Treated as inferiors. All because we can’t agree that the Divine and Sacred cannot take a different form than what we experience that as. How arrogant of us all.

We’ve lost our civility as a society. It wasn’t a fast change either. Its taken a few decades to get here. How do we go back to where we respect each other’s right to our own perspectives without being ridiculed, yelled at, or threatened? Or can we? I’d like to hope that we can. Right now, I see now other avenue to take. Not even a skinny, barely traveled hiking trail. All I can really offer is to keep walking along this blacktop road we’re on and look for other directions we can take. Even if its just a chain-link fence to climb over….

–Tommy /|\

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Thinking About: There’s One Thing in Which We Are the Same – We’re Different.

I don’t do divination or prophecy and rarely do I touch on magick. I live my life a single day at a time. I don’t want to know too much about things that are too far down the road. And magick? Well, that’s usually left as a “nuclear option” when hard work, sweat, and brains don’t suffice – which those methods are typically more than enough. I realize that much of that is antithetical to the approach that most Pagans take. For some, magick is the very first arrow they pull from their quiver. Bully for them. I’m not about to tell anyone how to manage their lives, even when it comes to magick or some other point. I’m more focused on trying to make the right choices in my own life. After all of that, I still hear that I should be worrying about this or that in the realm of politics – especially here in the United States. ::big sigh::

Usually, when I start hearing political talk, my tendency is to tune out. I learned a long time ago that trying to “discuss” politics with anyone is a losing proposition, even with those who tend to agree with your own point of view. Plus, I’m not “woke” enough to sit and argue endlessly over how politics is going to save the world. My views are far more middle ground than most folks out there. I don’t see a ton of good points in the left or the right. Thus, I tend to push all the bickering and garbage off to the side and focus on what I need to be focused on. Yeah, I hear a lot about how my focus is too self-focused, but that’s really where my focus needs to be. Before I can help a single soul, I must help myself. I can’t help you stand on your own if I am on my hands and knees. Too often, I get judged by others who compare where I am at with where they are at. Since they have got their shit together, the same holds true for me.

I hear a lot about how my Druidry MUST include politics. Well, no it doesn’t HAVE TO. I choose to push that out of my Druidry…but I also don’t demand that others do the same in their Druidry. That’s because one person’s Druidry is their own individual perspective. What makes Druidry for them comes from what they believe to be important in their beliefs. No one, not me, not anyone, has the right to tell others how they should be practicing their own beliefs. If another person looked at my approach to my Druidry and felt that it resonated with them enough to use it…they made that choice, not me. They are the only ones that have that choice.

I rail on this point constantly. That’s because I feel it is an individual freedom. Everyone makes the choices of what they will do, what they will accept as fact, and why they make that choice. None of that is a choice I get to make for someone else. They get to make that choice for themselves within their own individual Spirituality – their own connection to the Divine. I’m not their intercessor with the Gods. Nor would I care to be any such thing at any given time. I refuse to step between someone else and their connection to the Divine.

I’m not here to bend a single soul’s perception to my own perception. I’m not here to be the expert on Paganism, Druidry, or Paganism. I am the thirty-five-year expert on my own individual perceptions to all of that. But only on my own individual perception. I am completely sure of that perspective. But I won’t and cannot be the expert on yours. I categorically refuse.

I know that this stance is confusing for many new Pagans that find posts like this for me. I’ve been a Pagan for thirty-five years, surely I’m an expert over those thirty-five years? Hardly. I know Paganism from my viewpoint. I know Paganism according to my own biases. I can’t know Paganism from your viewpoint. I’m not you. I can explain why and how I see Paganism from my vantage point from around our collective fire, but in the end – its still just my vantage point.

I’m no guru. I’m not sitting on the mountaintop, waiting for you to climb to its heights, and posit a query for me to muse upon. If anything, I’m wandering the mountainside myself…seeking answers as well. Working through my own experiences. Perhaps, we can sit down for a while, talk, and share experiences? We’ll learn a little from one another that way. After all, we will see different things…we’ll try different methods and approaches. Because we’re not the same…and out of all te points I can make – that one means the most to me.

–T /|\

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