Different Footfalls, As It Should Be

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Tommy, 16Nov07

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

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

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

–Tommy

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


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

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

Just One Hill. There Are Still Mountains to Come.

“Only a Sith deals in absolutes.”

This is my favorite quote from any of the Star Wars movies. This singular quote also encompasses a large part of what and who I am. I am not one for holding to a good deal of absolutes to anything in my life or Spiritual Path. Over the past half-year, I have had a lot of time to contemplate aspects of my own Druidry that I held to as absolutes. Over that time, I altered a few approaches that I had, and discarded a few others that no longer really served what I needed on my Path. Now, I have made it to where I am. Standing on top of the hill, having climbed to this point. Ahead of me, I see the even taller, steeper mountain that remains on my Path. My Spiritual Path requires more work, more effort, and the rest of the time I have in my Life in this incarnation – and probably beyond that.

Malleable, But Not

Over the many years on my Spiritual Path, I have come to realize that my Spirituality is a malleable form. I can alter and shape it to my current needs. However, while I note that there are few absolutes in my understanding of the world around me; there are a few things that are solid and unchangeable. My belief in many Gods is one of those. I don’t have empirical proof of the Gods, aside from my own beliefs and experiences. In my early-to-mid-twenties, I carried a perspective where I had to defend what I knew against all comers. In my late twenties to my early forties, I realized that continually arguing over the reality of belief accomplished nothing except wasting time and energy. Now, in my mid-fifties, I have a better understanding of how my beliefs have evolved as I grew and changed – and will continue to do so going into my own future.

My concept of ritual is one example of the malleability of my connection to the world around me. When I first started down my Pagan path, I would read about various rituals that were in books by Scott Cunningham and Donald Michael Kraig. I would read about all the materials necessary, the preparation, and the mindset that would be required. Everything just HAD to be EXACTLY as a described. Later, I would realize that certain materials could be swapped with others. I would realize that one’s hand could be just as powerful (or even more so) than a wand of any sort. The color of the candle did not matter. Even further on, I would come to realize that intent mattered far more than the date/time that the ritual took place. The materials utilized were there to enhance the experience, not drive it. Only a few years ago, it dawned on me that there was no absolute in ritual – aside from personal intent.

Instructions Are Instructions

Yes, instructions are necessary for anything that one tries to do – unless you are creating something from scratch. In a manner of speaking, personal ritual is a lot like playing jazz music or making alterations to a recipe. However, before you even take a single step along the lines of riffing on your Paganism, you need to understand the basics far better than you may realize. To turn a ritual to your liking, you need to understand the format of what you are altering. I learned this lesson the hard way. I wanted to make changes to a particular ritual format that I had experienced a few times in a group setting. So, I made changes to parts of the ritual that I didn’t care that much about. What I wound up with was a complete mess that really did nothing for me. I had to strip away the changes and start again. I made the changes one after another. One change at a time wound up being helpful. I could sample various things and determine what worked and what didn’t. When I had finished, I had a personal ritual format that worked well for me. I had removed certain elements completely, altered/enhanced others to my liking, and added a few things that I had wanted. However, the full set of changes took a lot of work, a lot of sampling, and a lot of self-analysis. Not to mention tons of trial and error, and a metric ton of unsatisfying results. However, I wanted it – I worked at it – I developed it. In the end, the instructions of how to set up and conduct the ritual provided a basic framework to develop things from.

Rebuilds Are Not Always Necessary

Yes, I did strive to rebuild my Druidry into something that worked for me. In the beginning, the idea was to create something a bit more edgy and dark, which is not me whatsoever. What I wound up doing was stripping away overly romantic elements of what I have been taught within Druidry, while developing my own understanding of the connections I knew already existed. What I have left is a Druidry that is much easier for me to move forward with. A Druidry that resembles what I had before but removes a lot of the absolutes that I had inferred from the perspective of other Druids. I didn’t need Druidry to be from their viewpoint, I needed to develop it from my own viewpoint, my own understanding. What was important to them might not hold any importance to me whatsoever. I needed to shape things in my understanding and comprehension. A rebuild was not necessary though. What I wound up removing from my own Druidry was so miniscule that I could have – should have – just removed it without too much thought or pretense. However, in the end, I do believe that the process was cathartic for me. So, perhaps, in one perspective, it was necessary.

Crossing the finish line of that rebuilding process did bring me to the realization that my Druidry has never been about absolutes. I have very few lines that cannot be crossed in one fashion or another. There are always exceptions to the rules. Some call that being “wishy-washy” or will remark that this is “so Libra” of me. That I am unable to make a single decision. That I spend too much time keeping all my options open. Well, maybe. I am a quintessential Libra, or so I have been told. If that methodology or perspective is offensive to others or what have you… Well, so be it. I know what works for me. I have had enough time to live those experiences to understand that for myself. Plus, I would never say that this works for every single individual out there. Whoops, there is me seeing things from a malleable point of view. 😊

–Tommy

My Druidry Fits to Me – Not the Other Way Around

In writing Tuesday’s blog, I came across a realization that explains a lot of issues I have had over the past year with my own Druidry.

I slid into my ‘Druid peacemaker bullshit’ role and set about trying to be everything for everybody. And that shit just isn’t going to work. Fact of the matter, that shit is going to get me hurt or to be even more dramatic – killed. Instead of trying to live up to some romanticized aspect of what Druidry is, I need to start living up to how Druidry fits into Tommy. Druidry doesn’t get to dictate my concepts of boundaries, safety, and discretion – I do.

As I have been reading up on Druidry from so many different perspectives, I started to fall for the romanticized archetypes of what a Druid is. The images of Getafix from Asterix the Gaul, Merlin from any of the Arthurian tales, the idea that Druids are essentially the Priests of their communities….all of that served to create mental images of how I should be trying to shape my own Spiritual Path. And those mental images have served to set my feet slightly off the Path that I am trying to walk. I am no Getafix. I am hardly any kind of Merlin in whatever Arthurian dream that has or will come along. As a Druid, I am me – Tommy. For me to try and be anything else, is just disingenuous.

Part of what I am getting at with this is that your Druidry studies are about finding you. Not locating some “Merlin” inside you. Not discovering a hidden “Getafix” hidden back somewhere behind your spleen. Druidry is about making you into the best “you” that can be shaped through its framework. You don’t live inside Druidry. Druidry lives inside you. I would also hold that this goes for any system of mysteries and study that you can find. The idea is not to make you into something that you’re not, but to discover what is inside you already and highlighting that in a positive manner that works best for you.

As I noted, Druidry doesn’t get to dictate who and what I am – I do. Druidry informs me of things I may not have been aware of. In that manner, Druidry helps me to shape my perspective on some topics. Druidry also helps me to be aware of perspectives that I may not have considered. Druidry, for me, is about finding my connections to the world around me – not defining those connections. That is still up to me.

But here’s what Druidry is not to me. Druidry does not tell me how to be me. Druidry does not make me a Priest. It can be helpful in getting to that point, but it’s not going to turn me into something I really am not. Druidry does not dictate how I approach issues that I come across in the world around me. Druidry does not force me to abandon my own boundaries, my own perception of safety nor dictate what shape my discretion may take. All of that is maintained, managed and determined by me. Druidry does not get to turn me into something that I am not. Period. End of story.

In a manner of speaking this is me placing boundaries on what my Druidry does and does not do for me. Another area that I have had to reconsider my perspective on is magick use. I have discussed this before in the post (link to previous post here). So, in a manner of speaking, I have been doing a lot of rethinking about where my Druidry has me at this point. Much of that rethinking has me backtracking in my Ovate studies. Yes, that sounds like a bad thing, but it’s not. This is allowing me to go back over what I had previously gone through and see what changes in my mindset there may be. But I am also acutely aware that much of my thinking and thought processes may be antithetical to what others believe about their Druidry. However, that fits well with the way I see Druidry studies. When you study Druidry, you learn the ritual patterns, the chants, the words of wisdom – just the same as everyone else. But its application is individual. How it fits into your life is your business. You get to dictate how it fits and matters to your life. It’s as simple as that.

An individualistic approach. That is precisely how I see things working. Every individual studying Druidry will be their own type of Druid. As an example, some will strictly be Bards. Some will be singers. Some will be musicians. Some will be poets. Some will be storytellers. Some will be artists of so very many different stripes. But regardless of the type of Bard that they wind up being…they are still individuals. They are not the same. They let their Druidry be a part of them in a manner that befits them – not to fulfill some silly, romantic archetype. They are the type of Bard that they are, the type of Druid that they are because it fits them. They allow their Druidry to fit them, not letting themselves trying to fit some archetype.

So, if you are thinking of studying Druidry – or any other mystery school or any Spiritual tradition – remember that whatever it is, it needs to fit you. You should not have to shoehorn yourself into some Path’s archetypes. You should be finding ways for your Spirituality to fit inside of you. When you begin to lose who you are, the benefit of your Spiritual Path will wind up being shit and useless for you. In that vein, I will leave only one law that I have when it comes to one’s personal Spirituality – be who you are. Change for the right reasons. But never compromise who you are when doing so. You will be far happier in the end, in my opinion.

–T /|\

Tiptoeing into Leadership Concepts

Leader. There is no other word in the English language that scares the shit out of me. Especially when applied to me. Yet, there are people who claim to see this capability in me. Shit, even the United States Air Force claimed to see the ability in me. They TRAINED me to be a leader. It’s what they expected of those who were on the upward progression of the enlisted rank ladder. Every time I have had this applied to me by others – I completely freeze up. Because somewhere inside of me is this little voice which laughs out loud as it tries to spit out the phrase: “Who? You?”

In the past, I have written a few blog posts here and there noting that I am not a leader. I have utilized self-deprecating humor at nearly every turn to deflect the concept away from me. Over and over again, I have denigrated myself as not the kind of person that others would follow. All of that to convince myself that I am not capable of stepping in front of a group of people and leading them forward into….something.

A few folks would think I am a natural at this, given that I used to teach face-to-face in a Community College classroom. I’ll be honest, every single new semester, I spent the first three weeks being absolutely terrified in front of my students. The shorter Summer terms, I was an even greater wreck. Granted, they were a captive audience, but I still had to find ways to persuade them to complete assignments on time. While I loved being the professor in the classroom, there was always a tinge of terror behind my attempted calm demeanor.

One of the hardest things to be a leader on in the classroom environment was group assignments. Every student I know hated these. The reasoning was simple. No one likes having to rely on other’s for their class grade. But for me, it was (and is) perhaps the most important method for teaching folks about teamwork and leadership styles. I stressed to the students that the emphasis was not so much on the final product of the team assignment – though it would be graded for completeness and other aspects – but it was about the way that they worked together. many students would not wait for their weakest links to complete parts of the assignment, instead doing those parts for them. There was no perspective of helping the weaker student learn from what was being done – just an emphasis on getting it done. Whenever I caught wind of stuff like this, I quickly put a stop to it.

Why? Because I truly believe in supporting one another. One thing I’ve learned in nearly three and a half decades of working, teams are more than a collective of people to get a job done. Teams are places where folks can be free to be who they are (within “civilized” reason), as well as places where support mechanisms are built. Stuck on a coding problem? Come on down to Tommy’s cube and let’s discuss what the issue is. We can work together to come up with potential ideas, no matter how off-beat it may seem. Any option is a potential solution. Working together is something we all should be doing. That way, when times get tough, we have places to turn for various kinds of help. Got issues with your computer system? I can help. I’ll charge you a meal. Simple as that. Teamwork helps build concepts of community.

Now,  I get paralyzed by the concept of being a leader because I don’t like being first out of the gate. I’m always worried that no one will follow. I’m also worried about always being seen as the one with the responsibility to get things done. You know, where one person does all the work but everyone else shares in the results? I like it better when everyone shares in the work and responsibilities and then share in all the results. But these are not the only reasons I freeze up. I always worry when people see me as the measuring stick. That everyone has to do things the way that I do, so they will get similar results. My idea of leadership is a little different. I let other people do their thing. When they need help, they can come to me for assistance. I’m not going to do the work for you, but I will suggest alternate ways to get beyond whatever obstacle you encounter. Perhaps, my style of leadership can be better described as mentorship. Except that I am still not adverse to rolling up my sleeves and getting the work done. I’ve never been sure what kind of leadership that is, but it’s the way I get things done. But whatever it is….it’s more me than anything else.

Sure, the concept of being out front still scares the shit out of me. I’m always worried when people see me as the guy with all the answers – because that definitely ain’t me. I am; however, the guy who will go and do the research and try to find the answers you are asking for. The real truth is, no matter how scared I am of the idea of being the first…no matter how much I fear the idea of being seen as the guy with the answers….I can be viewed as a leader in some fashion. So, instead of running from that concept, I’ll have to embrace it.

Being the person that is viewed as a leader is a scary prospect. At least it is for me. I always worry about making mistakes and disappointing people with my choices. However, making mistakes and disappointing folks comes with the territory. A better way to deal with this, in my opinion, is to listen to the criticisms and not take it too personally. And to listen to the praise as well. Though I’m never great at taking praise as much as I am at taking criticism. But that’s a post for another time.

–T /|\

My old classroom

Looking at the Tarot – My Perspective

Much of my Pagan Life, I have avoided the usage of Tarot Cards and other aspects of Divination. There were a lot of reasons behind this decision that I made, all of which – until recently – continued to be the logic behind my perspective. I want to take a little time to discuss some of these and why these are no longer valid for me. Perhaps you have had some of the same thoughts or maybe others that I do not address here. Perhaps it might be time to take a look at where things sit and attempt to reconsider your position based on those thoughts. I know it made a difference for me.

Which Deck?

Trying to figure out which deck worked best for me was always a confusing process to try and undertake. I never knew which one may be best for me and which one would not be suitable. When I asked folks how they figured out which deck was best for them, I get a myriad of answers that only confused me more. Look at the artwork, see it speaks to you. Hold the cards in your hands. See how they feel. Meditate over them for a few moments and see if any deck calls to you. Look at the price and see which one fits into your budget at the time (seriously). For me, the answer came in a little different manner. I attended my last Pantheacon in 2018, where Kristoffer Hughes was selling his Celtic Tarot deck. I had listened to a lot of Kristoffer’s talks and quickly realized that he spoke straight-forward and honestly on various topics. I surmised that the same would hold true for a Tarot Deck that he helped develop. I bought a deck and it made it to my bookshelf. Where it sat, unopened. Now, nearly a year and a half later, I finally opened the deck, spread it all over the floor so that I could create reverse cards within any given reading, brought the deck back together and started the process of my first reading. That reading not only turned out to be accurate, but quite a swift kick in my ass as well. Three more readings brought more navigational points that also pointed in the same direction. I realized that without thinking about it, without going through all the meditation processes, gazing at the artwork endlessly or even considering the price…I had found a deck that worked with me. But was it the deck or me? More on that in a moment.

Which Layouts?

When I first started looking at tarot I was astounded and confused by the large number of layouts that one could do a reading through. if you go to a search engine and try to find a card spread that you can examine and try working with – there are hundreds. Some are more complicated than others, some are rather simplistic. For my purposes, I stuck with the three-card layout that is in the accompanying book with the Celtic Tarot. While keeping the question in my mind, I shuffled the deck nine times (three times three…I’m a druid, so threes are important). The first card explores the issue itself. The second card explores the unconscious factors, or things that you may not be aware of. The third card brings the two together in a conclusive manner to offer guidance. For me, this particular layout was short, concise and to the point. Precisely what a novice such as myself needed.

Now others will swear by more complicated layouts where more cards are revealed. I’m sure those work with folks that have been using the cards for large amounts of time. But right now, I am just a novice at doing this. So the simple three-card layout seems to be the best option at this point.

Not Knowing Attributes by Memory

One of the most intimidating things about tarot cards is trying to discuss readings with others. Many of these folks have the attributes of each card in the deck memorized. They also have many layouts memorized and can just look at a spread of tarot cards and provide answers to you immediately. Little ol’ novice me has to take the time to open the associated book, flip through the pages to find the section on that card and then read what it written there. After that, comes a few moments of trying to analyze what I just read and piecing that together around the question that I asked. Then, moving on to each successive card and then trying to piece all of that information into a cognitive perspective. It has always been intimidating when the far more experienced tarot readers rattle things off so quickly and then are seemingly offended when you can’t quite keep up.

This used to turn me off to even getting involved with the tarot at all. I can’t get to where those people are over the course of a few days. I wind up feeling like I am just “not good enough” to do this. Until one day when I was refusing to attempt tarot readings in a meditation with Abnoba. She pointed out to me that at one time, I was just as much of a novice in programming languages. it took me time to learn the constructs of various programming schematics before I got fairly decent at putting these into practice without much thought. “You need to practice. Spend time with the cards of your choosing. You will get better. You know this.” After considering that, I started to realize that when discussing programming techniques with novice code-writers, I was probably just as intimidating and maybe even came off as a bit dismissive. Perspective truly means everything, folks.

Not Placing Faith in the Process

One of the most difficult parts of the process of working with the tarot, at least for me, is placing my faith in the process. One Witch that I have known wanted to work some magick on me. I consented, thinking the person was only playing at what they were doing, not really knowing that they had the skill and the power to do just what they were suggesting. That particular bit of spell work continues to work to this day. I was proven wrong (happily though).

The same holds true with working with the tarot. Have faith that what you are doing by working with these decks will produce results. The results may not be exactly what you intended or bring up more questions than get answered, but that is a result. More of a starting point than an ending place. One thing I have found to be completely true in any case, is that the magick is inside of you. have faith in your ability to put your personal magick into the reading. But that leads me to a final question.

Is It the Deck or You?

Where does the real power for all of this lie, in you or the deck of cards? I am no expert, but I would posit that it all lies within you. The deck merely acts as an amplifier or a magnifying glass concerning all that could be, that surrounds you. And by “could be”, I suggest that there are many places in Life where choices have to be made. Sometimes, the tarot can bring to light some of the points that may bring those choices to life.

I see the tarot as tool that amplifies all that is around you and shows you the potential of what can be, should you work with what you had asked in your original question. Its not a Magic Eight-ball with its crudely set choice of  x number of answers. Rather, it is a system and methodology of being able to plug deeper into your own thoughts and reactions. Of course, I have no proof of that, aside from the readings that I have done. It still remains to be seen how well the cards will continue to respond to my self-readings, much less the extra complication of doing readings for others.

I went from a half-skeptical individual to believing in the tarot’s possible capabilities. That will teach me to close off my mind to the possibilities. And I have so much more to learn.

–T /|\

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gizmo hiding…sort of

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

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

–T /|\

Us versus Them – Just Thinking Aloud

Today has been the same old conundrum: what do I write about? Most folks who read this blog already know that I do my posts as unplanned topics. For me, its a more organic style of writing. The only problem is that it can sometimes be a complete blank for a good part of the day. Well today was one of those days. So I just let my mind wander a bit and….well, politics started the entire thought process off. Don’t groan. It started the process, but its only the manner in which to get the topic started. So, shall we?

On July 3rd, the massive Orange Peel of a President here in the United States gave a rather passionate speech. I know most folks didn’t watch it. I know I didn’t. But I read a lot of the summary material. Donnie railed against the Left, as well as the BLM protesters – lumping them into the same pot, and declaring them as “the enemy.” this entire manner of thinking should sound familiar. He declared the media to be the enemy back in 2016. He declared the “deep state” of career government employees as the enemy. He declared the Democrats as the enemy. From those three declarations he created a straw man to attack, declaring he was going to drain the swamp. Every chance he got to speak, he beat the drum about this compiled straw man that he had created. And the people on the far right heard the dog whistles that they needed to hear. They had a common enemy to deploy their votes against. Donnie was declaring a change in Washington DC. He was going to drain the swamp. Except that he didn’t. In fact, he never intended to do so. He cleared the way for his “yes” people to put in charge of various aspects of the political structure, and fired those who obstructed the way. Now, in 2020 – an election year where his poll numbers are lagging behind former Vice President Joe Biden – he latched on to the two pieces that he needed to create a new straw man – the vehicle he hopes to get elected by. He has made several derogatory statements aimed at Black Lives Matter, pointing to the destruction of statues and various instances of destruction of property to label them as “dangerous” and “the enemy”. To help with his election process, he has attached the Democrats to this straw man as well, hoping to equate the destruction that has occurred with Blake Lives Matter. And to make it more personal, he has added a charge that this straw man of BLM and Democrats is out to erase History, change the very fabric of what we know of America. Strong, heady, and quite shrewd campaigning tactics. Add to that his politicizing the wearing of masks during a time of a pandemic – one that he wants to ignore as much as he can, since it happened on his watch – and you start seeing the way he wants to spin the playing field. He is creating a paradigm of “Us versus Them” – Them being portrayed by his caricature straw man.

The “Us versus Them” paradigm is a very heady potion to create and get people to quaff. However, its rather easy territory to cover, if you think about it. We see it in our films, our cartoons, in the novels we read, in the tales we tell one another – the fight of our side versus those “bad guys”. The UvT, as I like to refer to Us versus Them as – is a story formula we have been weened on. Our literature, movies, even our History is carved in this type of portrayal. So its not a difficult thing for someone like Trump or even Biden to latch on to. For Trump, he is trying to appeal to those who do not want to see the world around them change. They are complacent and happy with where things are for them. The world is easily placed into two piles – the stuff that is right, and the stuff that is not. The other side of the equation are those who are demanding change. They see the world is balanced unfairly, and they want things to be brought to a level of equality. If you flip the script, you will notice that it still balances into a UvT, just in a different direction.

The insidious part of UvT theory, is that neither side are hunting from common ground. Its either this or that – nothing else. When you have two sides in disagreement and unable to find compromise, you wind up with war at some point. One side or the other is going to feel frustrated, and step way over the line of somewhat civil discourse. Once that happens, bringing either side to a point of resolution will be difficult. And this is precisely what Donnie and the Republicans want. At the moment those folks are in absolute control. Once they goad the other side into taking things beyond a certain point – they will have the excuse they need to do far more destructive things to the other side. Through laws, through brutal enforcement of current laws, even through simple Presidential decrees to round up and imprison dissidents. Sound familiar? Do you hear the clinking of the chains of the fascism that everyone wants to fight against? Donnie has already made statements that the folks represented by his new straw man are the “true fascists” in all of this, again in his July 3rd and July 4th speeches. All in the name of the UvT theory.

Now, I am ex-active duty military. Back in March of 1986, I raised my hand and swore to protect the Constitution of these United States from aggressors foreign and domestic. I left the military in April of 1994, and not under the greatest of circumstances. But how I left, and when I left never cancelled that oath. When I took that oath of enlistment, the terms of what I must do never waned. My allegiance is not to a political party. My allegiance is to the Constitution of these United States, the document that outlines how we, as a nation are to be governed. I watch politics careful – not because I want to, but because I have to be vigilant against aggressors domestic. I absolutely loathe politics. I am an unaffiliated voter because I wish not to make allegiance to any party. Politics is that slimy to me. Do I feel that Donnie is a good President? Not one bit. Do I feel that he fulfills his own oath to the Constitution and to the citizenry of this country that he took back in January of 2017? Not at all. I see a self-centered, self-absorbed individual who only makes law that benefits him in his corporate world. I see an individual that I would have a very difficult time serving in the military under him as Commander-in-Chief, were I still in the active duty or reserve component of the Air Force. he is a shrewd user of the UvT theory….sow division among the citizenry, and get them to choose sides, stoking the fires of one side over the other….creating his version of “Us” – and by definition, if you are not in the “Us” grouping, well….. So long as there is argument and chaos, no one is watching the under-handed things he is going to benefit himself, and his equally criminal family.

Now, I’m quite certain this post is going to piss some folks off….I completely grok that. I have quite a few friends that are quite happy about the Cheeto-in-Chief being in charge. I get how they would be upset with much of my assessment. I also understand that there are those that will think my assessment doesn’t go far enough in damning this current Administration. However, I will remind you – this is my personal assessment of where things are, and what is going on. I have no political affiliation with any party – and I don’t want one. I am affiliated with the Constitution of the United States. My approach will be different than yours….because neither of us is the other. We are all individuals, who can think for ourselves and make up our own minds. My biggest hope is that this post will stir the idea that some form of communication needs to be kept alive. Without that line, all of this slips further and further towards the anarchy and fascist approach that none of us should want. Republicans, Democrats, Green Party, Libertarians, and whatever political affiliation I am leaving out – we all have an identity that should be held up above any political party – we are all human beings, and deserve the same respect.

–T /|\

Thinking About: Being Alone in Paganism

I am in quite a few groups on Facebook and while I do not always participate, I do read them. A few weeks back, in one of the groups (I do not remember exactly which one), an individual who was also studying the Path of Druidry dropped a question that instantly felt like a plea for help.

Does anyone else feel alone on this Path?

I saw that quite a few folks had already responded to the individual, so I left the conversation alone. The question; however, has lingered with me since. For the most part, my personal Spirituality has me on a Path where I am alone. I do not have a grove to study my Druidry with. Or to hold ritual with on a regular basis. Or to socialize face-to-face – though that is truly impossible with the increasing numbers of COVID-19 infections here in Texas. With my health conditions, I would turn done even the most innocent gathering of more than two people.

Most years, I get the chance to feed my social interactions with others at events such as ADF’s Imbolc Retreat held by Hearthstone Grove here in Texas, and OBOD’s Gulf Coast Gathering in Louisiana. Like Said….most years. This year….well, its definitely a little different. Both events were cancelled for this year, which put my social interaction with other Pagans and Druids at zero, in a face-to-face setting. While online gatherings are a nice way to somewhat reconnect, its not truly the same. Thus, the feeling of isolation creeps in a little deeper. Sort of like a body check by Scott Stevens. So, when I read the individual’s post on Facebook, my mind immediately answered back.

Nine Hells, yes. Especially this year.

Now, I am in the Ovate grade in OBOD. My studies are meant to be taken and completed alone, which in some ways exacerbates the entire feeling. I cannot speak to how other Druid orders do their training, as I have never done or participated in any of them. So I started wondering, how often might others feel this way?

I can only guess, but I would hypothesize that its a fairly sizable number. Adding to that, the pure isolation that social distancing from others in this new age of COVID-19 may give an extra edge to that feeling as well. I know quite a few Pagans who have issues with being out in the open community, for one reason or another. And that fear of being around other people – I would guess social anxiety might be the best descriptive for it – can be an extremely paralyzing moment. I’m a fairly social creature, so I can only attempt to understand how all of that feels. In a new social setting, I can be the ultimate wallflower, believe that or not. However, once I get the feel for the people there, I am more than happy to sit and talk. About anything. So social anxiety is not something that I, personally, suffer from. I do; however, know many folks that do. And I have bothered to quietly ask what that feeling is like. Suffocating. Paralyzing. The general feeling of panic and a need to flee for the safety of solitude. So, it leads me to wonder if this particular individual might have been feeling the same thing??

On the other hand, when walking your Path in your Spirituality, there is a series of moments that I refer to as “travelling the dark woods” that happens. Where you find your footsteps have taken into a part of your Spirituality that feels dark, foreboding, and downright scary. Where you feel like you are going to need to wash out your underwear when you manage to get beyond this…IF you get beyond this. Those moments can feel like the entire world abandoned you on the doorstep of the Nine Hells with only a teaspoon to defend yourself with. And that’s if they were being nice to you before leaving you there alone. That moment in your Spirituality can be an extremely lonely moment. I have had this happen to me several times in my thirty-plus years on this Pagan Path of mine. Each time has a slightly different feel to it, but the feeling of lonliness has always been there each time. No lie, that stuff can feel rough.

Do I feel all alone on my Path? Depends on what day and hour you ask me. Right now, with all the COVID-19 issues out there keeping people from meeting – my answer would be yes. When all this clears up, and I can get out and meet with other Pagans? Probably not. In the meantime, I do the best I can to cope. Emails, texts, video playback of gatherings that happen online ( live streaming is a little difficult from where I am at) – this will have to suffice as I move forward. In the meantime, to avoid thinking about the solitary aspect of my walk as it currently stands in today’s environment, I go back into doing my Ovate grade studies. And sharpening my database and programming skills. And reading. All of this comes down to one prevailing thought. In all of the dark times I have encountered in my daily walk, the only way out was to keep walking. To keep moving forward. No matter how lonely it felt, I knew it couldn’t last forever. Because I cling to hope like my old, beat-up Teddy Bear from my childhood. Were it not for that tattered Teddy Bear as the physical incarnation of hope, I am not sure what might happen.

–T /|\

I’m Not an “Advanced” Pagan – Just a Pagan

“Advanced Pagan”. Gods, I have come to really dislike terminology like this. The idea that Paganism is this level-by-level building block just remains a big turn-off to me. Sort of like a set of collegiate course work on learning programming, where there’s this “101”, “102”, “201”, “301” and so on progression. You make it through one to get to the other. Linear progression.

My experience has been quite different. Sure, there are some linear progressions in working through your own Spiritual path, but for the most part – you can grab the basic basics, and then move on from there to other topics. You can bypass the “201” levels and head straight to the “301” and “401” stuff. You can grasp those topics and concepts quite easily without the “201” stuff. Which makes me wonder how and why we get to this particular place…that its this progression that *HAS* to be done.

The closest approximation I can find is that many of us have progressed through a collegiate program somewhere in our lives. This would be where we buy into the idea of linear instruction. Nine Hells, I am currently going through this with the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids. First there’s the Bardic grade, then the Ovate grade, and finally the Druid grade. Each is a set of progressions to the next grade until the coursework is completed. However, the linear learning format only goes through the grade progression. Within the lessons, you work at your own pace. You can even set lessons off to the side and continue forward – eventually coming back to the lessons that you had issues with later. The hope is that you can learn a little more as you go forward, so that you can come back and get the necessary lesson later on. To be honest, this is also a way of learning a programming language too. When I was learning more complicated progressions in SQL, I came across concepts – such as Virtual Tables – that made little or no sense to me. I set those off to the side, and continued on with more traditional concepts such as If-Then and For Loops. Eventually, I came back to Virtual Tables and took a longer look at how it worked, using the understanding of Looping in SQL to realize how things were being done. Even in learning SQL, I was handed labeling such as “advanced SQL” – even by my peers at the college. The only difference between us was that I searched out the knowledge of these conceptual perspectives out of necessity. They only handled SQL to a level that they could comprehend in the handling of their daily work.

So, is there really an “advanced Pagan” or are there people who learn other components of Paganism out of need and necessity? I would submit it is the need and necessity that drives people to those areas. For instance, I understand and work with ritual on a daily basis. I moved into an impromptu manner of working ritual out of personal need and necessity. This doesn’t make me a wizard when it comes to ritual. It was a need and necessity that I had to fulfill for my daily Spiritual Path. Now, come towards the topic of magick work or spell work – and my knowledge is rudimentary at best. Why? Because its an area I have no need or necessity for. I consider magick and spell work to be a last resort. Granted, that’s my perspective – there are a major ton of people who would openly and vehemently disagree with me. Why? Because magick and spell work fulfills a need and/or necessity in their daily Spiritual Path. But if you made a comparison between myself and them, in terms of ability, you might apply a label of “advanced” on them or “beginner” on me. Neither label is correct. “More experienced” and “less experienced” might be a better way of describing such avenues of ability and thought.

I have railed often against labels…and this would be another such instance. For me, a Pagan is a Pagan is a Pagan. Some people are more experienced than others. Some have been on this path for what feels like an eternity. Sometimes it feels that way to me, after thirty-plus years. but my overall time on this Path doesn’t make me any better than anyone else. I’m not an expert on anything other than my own path. I’m no “advanced” Pagan because of my years….I’m a Pagan. I’m a Druid. No extra descriptives are needed. Unless you want to add some Anglo-Saxon terminology to all of it. I’ve heard it before. And will likely hear it over and over again. But strip away the adjectives, I’m still just a Pagan. I’m still just a Druid. Advanced? No. No thanks. I’ll just take the terms of Pagan and Druid…and be content with just that. I know others will disagree – and that’s ok. Their Path is for their footsteps alone…mine is for me. We can walk alongside one another, but we still have to walk it ourselves.

Thinking About – Where I Stand

Yesterday, I was confronted by an individual I had friended a long time ago on Facebook. This individual told me that I essentially stood for nothing, so they were wondering where exactly I stood on the issues of the day. Frustrated, I wrote the following as a status on Facebook….

What I stand for….

* I prefer the world to see everyone as human beings…not whatever their skin color is. Yes, I believe that All Lives Matter, but that starts with Black Lives Matter because we need to fix that first. After that, everything else should be easy to get to fall under an umbrella of All Lives Matter. But we gotta do what’s needed first.
* I believe that all Confederate statues should be removed. Not destroyed. Removed. And placed in a museum where contextual markers can be created, placing the Confederate aspect of the war in the light it should be portrayed….as wrong.
* I would like to see the Designated Hitter rule abolished for both leagues in Major League Baseball. Not for a current season, but starting in 2021. I do not think Major League baseball should play a season this year.
* I hope to see an America where third parties begin to thrive and gain a foothold in the conversation regarding the governance of this country and the states. Having only two parties seated at the table does our country a dis-service, when it comes to new ideas and the handling of laws that need to be created or changed.
* I want term limits on Congressional members of both the House and the Senate. New faces mean new voices. New voices mean new ideas. New ideas mean that effective change has more than a silent whisper in either chamber.
* I would also like a term limit or perhaps even an age limit, for judges at every level of the Justice system. This includes the Supreme Court.
* I want police reform, now. The usage of choke-holds, kneeling on the throats of detained individuals, and the concept of Qualified Immunity has got to come to a stop. I realize that the first two are far more easily solved than the last one – but all three can be accomplished – even while respecting the very tough job that we have placed our police officers into. This needs to be done in a manner of decorum and respect, not under the auspices of mob rule. I can understand the frustration, but acting in a disrespectful manner does not win the day.

Lastly, if any of this offends you…save your breath. None of this is up for debate with me. These are my views. Don’t like them so much that you are offended…unfriend me, block me….whatever you want to do. That’s your choice. I promise, you’re not going to hurt my feelings.

Now I’m not going to out this particular individual, even going so far as to not using any gender related identifiers. Why? Because (a) I did not get permission from the individual to use their name, and (b) I don’t think it carries much relevance beyond this paragraph.

So why am I frustrated over all of this? Well, its rather simple. I have always felt that I wrote clearly as to where I stood on stuff like this. Apparently, I have danced around the topics enough that some folks are just not sure. So, I wrote this status to clarify. But as I read through it, I noticed a few other things that I have left out.

Kneeling for the US National Anthem. Nine Hells, you can class this for ANY Anthem of any type, National or otherwise. I see nothing wrong with people doing such. Back when all of this kicked up in the national Football League, I wasn’t of the mind that it was something that I would do. But I did (and still do) have my own protest for this. And for much the same reasons that Colin Kapernick stated. Here in the United States, the primary method of how to handle the moment of the National Anthem is to stand, face the American flag, and place your hand over your heart. If you choose to sing, that’s acceptable. For me? I do stand at the National anthem. I do not remove my hat. I place my hands behind my back. I stand quietly. And yes, I have had people approach me afterwards about how disrespectful I am being. That’s about the time that I remind them that I am a US military veteran. I raised my hand and swore an oath to protect the Constitution of this country against all aggressors, foreign and domestic. And so long as Donald John Trump remains President, I see a domestic aggressor against the Constitution. Whatever anyone says to me about that means absolutely nothing to me. My enlistment oath didn’t stop when I left the military. People that don’t like or agree with me on that…I’m perfectly fine with. Not everyone is going to see things as I do.

I know a lot of people are going to have issues with my stance on “All Lives Matter” – that it is something that is necessary. I also know that many of the ALM folks are going to have issues with me prioritizing the Black Lives Matter perspective as well. Look, All Lives do Matter. But to get there, we have to protect and stand up for the Black Lives Matter aspect. They are in danger, especially in encounters with law enforcement. It has to stop. Once we get past that point, it will be far easier to reach the aspect of where All Lives Matter. We can’t run first, we have to walk – one step at a time.

And one last thing. I am a Pagan. I do believe in many distinct Gods. I also believe that not everyone will be on the same Path as I am. Everyone makes their way through Life in the Spiritual perspective that makes the most sense to them. I have no desire to burn down churches, temples or whatever else you can dream up. I also have no desire to see iconography destroyed to make some point about all beliefs being equal. All beliefs are equal in my eyes, and I will defend the rights of anyone to practice whatever beliefs they want. Do we need to march in the streets for that? Well, if you do, I have my colander ready. I’ll be stepping proudly next to the Pastafarians that follow The Flying Spaghetti Monster.

Again, I am frustrated. Frustrated because I thought everyone essentially got the idea of all people are equal. Equal in the eyes of the law. Equal in the eyes of the Gods. Able to practice their beliefs freely. Able to walk in their communities without the fear of an encounter with law enforcement becoming something deadly, simply because of the color of their skin. Paraphrasing the words of G’kar from Babylon 5 – We taught people this lesson before. We can and will teach it to them again. Though it take a thousand years or whatever number of lifetimes…everyone shall be equal and free. That I promise you.

–T /|\

Thinking About: Winds of Change

So. Folks are rioting over the deaths of various folks at the hands of brutal police tactics. They are aggressive in their protests. They are destroying property. And a lot of folks that are fairly well off are wringing their hands over all of it with worry on their minds.

But here’s the thing, when someone feels that they are not being listened to, feels that they are not being treated fairly or equally…the last recourse that they feel they have is to react in a manner like this. Its an understandable reaction and a natural recourse to where these folks feel they are in today’s society.

Is it the end of America? The beginning of the destruction of what is America? Hardly. This is a marker of a need for change. Our society still lives around the idea that a corporate product is more important than the wage workers that support its creation and sale. Currently, many of those wage workers have been sent packing from their jobs because of this COVID-19 pandemic. Its not the livelihoods of the corporate elite that are in danger here. These wage workers are in danger of losing their housing. With no job and no associated health-care, these are perilous times for these folks. There’s a need for change….and this has nothing to do with politics. This is not about pulling down and putting away historical remembrances of the US Civil War. This is bigger than all of that, and far more meaningful.

This is about societal change. Where we start caring about one another…and stop the soul-less concept of just looking out for number one. We are at a cross-roads for our futures. What we decide to do at this point will reverberate throughout our Past, Present and Future.

Now, you can look back through the posts here on the blog – you’ll find I don’t say much about stuff like this at all. That’s because I don’t write this blog to influence who you do or do not vote for. Nor do I write this blog to chide you over whatever other choices you do or do not. I sincerely believe in your ability to choose for yourself. And I sincerely believe in the ability of human beings to do the right things on their own. This blog is not about celebrating that or being some kind of instruction manual for how to live one’s life. I have no desire to be that person.

What I do hope that comes across in the blog, is that my own perception of other people comes from their actions – not from their skin color, hair color, eye color, height, weight, gender, sexual orientation, or whatever else you can come up with. I try very hard to live my life not judging people on the way that they look, but rather on the actions (or non-actions) that they take in their lives. Because this is the way I HOPE the rest of the world can start to act in this same manner. And yes, I am aware that I am a single individual, and that my influence is limited to those that will read this blog. But I am reminded of a quote from the Dalai Lama

Just as ripples spread out when a single pebble is dropped into water, the actions of individuals can have far-reaching effects.

My reach may not be very far, but I hope that it affects change in someone else, who can be the next pebble dropped into water – thus increase the reach of this idea – and so on, and so forth. The Gods know, I am far from being perfect. I have my own personal prejudices that I fight on a daily basis….but I do fight. I do my best to affect change within myself. And that is really all I am in control of. My fight is a constant internal struggle, and not seen by very many. I can only hope that others can see my struggle and desire to change, and seek that in themselves as well.

One last thing, let’s remember that people are not born as racists. Its a taught thing. Most of us that acknowledge our own struggles with racist concepts in our lives – no matter what skin pigmentation you have – learned that behavior from others. I know I did. And I am not holding my parents as members of the Klan or something. But they did occasionally comment about how I was supposed to be better than others simply because of my skin color. Over time in their lives – both of my parents have passed away a while back – they came to understand a little better that skin pigmentation meant nothing. Its the internal will and desire of the individual that causes them to succeed and none of that will and desire comes out of skin color. It comes solely from inside the individual. It took them a long time to accept that and change, but they did change. Their desire was to be better grand-parents than they were parents – and I like to think that they succeeded at that. Others can change too. Maybe not as fast as you want them to, but they can change. With some patience, love, and understanding.

Where we stand now, with escalating violence in these protests, the burning of buildings, the constant barrage of “burn this mother-fucker down” — the effect of getting people to listen… Its been achieved. People are listening. The news coverage is there. Its time to talk openly about what is needed. The changes that must be put into effect. How brutal police tactics need to come to a halt. Changing laws so that police officers can be held accountable in a court of a law. Breaking the barriers that provide the unseen privileges that whites like myself enjoy without even the barest knowledge of it existing. Now is the time to talk. Now is the time to make the demands. Now is the time to make those changes happen. I can only hope that some folks that everyone can listen to say something, and start moving towards effecting these changes.

By the way. I said this was not about politics. Its not. But politics may need to be utilized as a form of leverage to get there. To be openly honest, I don’t believe that either the Republican or Democratic candidates are the people poised to make those necessary changes – much less even listen. And no, I don’t believe that Mr. Sanders would have been the right person either. Mr. Obama was the right catalyst to start the conversation to make those changes. America is going to need another forward-thinking President that can create inclusion to help get over this hump. Who that individual is – I have no fucking clue. I just know that individual did not run for President of the United States in this cycle.

We aren’t looking at a change of “Empire” or the crumbling of America as it stands. In my eyes, that’s not what the Storm is all about. We are; however, looking at a strong societal change coming down the streets of this country. In fact, I can see a lot of this same change starting to well-up in the streets around the world. We have to change our mindsets from getting whatever we can for ourselves and our chosen tribes – and fuck everyone else. We are hearing people’s anger over being treated differently than others. The laws of our various countries are meant to be applied equally across the board – not at differing levels according to your skin color or the amount of money you make. In the workplace, there is enough monetary wealth to insure that workers in your companies have more than adequate health-care, the means to do more than survive from paycheck to paycheck, and for facilities for the appropriate and loving care of their young children. We have the monetary means to insure that our education systems are more than government run babysitting facilities. But to get there…..we have to find a way to get people to stop being consumed by greed, and that is a steep hill to traverse. Not impossible, but extremely difficult. We, as a species are better than this. I have faith that we can accomplish this, but no mistake – it will require changing a lot of mindsets. And I sincerely doubt its going to happen in my lifetime or the lifetime of my child, or even his children. But I do have hope that it will happen. It will be a long, tiring road. We need to vow to be there for each other, and even for those who think differently than we do. Showing them that we live and love the way we think – that’s what will change minds.

#TwoQuid

–T /|\

Thinking About: The Storm – Just One Opinion

Remember back in 2019, when we were looking at the coming year of 2020 as a better day? That things were going to be a little easier? I do. Somewhat. I don’t really look to a period of time in the future to being better than the one I am currently standing on. That’s because I don’t know whether it will or won’t be. My personal philosophy is take each day one step at a time. Take each week one day at a time. Take each month one day at a time. Each year one day at a time. Each decade one day at a….what? Oh, you get the point. 🙂

I do hear a lot of people openly hoping for that better day coming. Or even those that keep hoping that the future will look like the past. Both sets of folks are going to be disappointed, in my opinion. The only thing I can be one-thousand percent confident about is what has already happened in the past. What’s happening today? Right now? That’s as much a surprise for me as it is for you. What’s happening in the future? I have no idea. I’m no fortuneteller nor do I claim to have any stranglehold on any corner of what is to come. As such, I can only take one day at a time.

But, here’s what I know. And it comes from a set of lyrics from the band Styx. The song if “These are the Times”….

If the flickering light of your campfire dims
The world grows smaller, it’s closing in
I’m standin’ here, and I want you to live

(I know) These are the times we find out who we really are
This will be when a true friend stands at your side
Someone like me who wants to believe
In the days of high times and innocence
Drawing the lines and shouting back to the night
Someone like me who wants you to live

–Styx, “These are the Times”

Just about every Pagan I know is talking about the phenomenon known as “The Storm”. Some have been talking about it for several years. Others are just coming around to the concept. When you arrive at the idea doesn’t really matter. The Storm is The Storm. Many folks pin it to the concept of the crumbling American Empire. Not me. I see it differently (of course I do – I have to be different – or so some folks would say). This isn’t about the decay of an Empire. Nor is it the orgasmic demise of Capitalism within society. Certainly that idea is better than Viagra for Bernie Sanders, but I just don’t buy into it being the core of The Storm. At best, those concepts are symptom of what is taking place.

For me, from what I have been able to glean and tease from my understanding of what is taking place, this is about a societal change in the way we regard others. The old guard – mostly people of my generation, the Baby Boomers – have held the aspects of wealth and material accumulation above everything else. This is basically a knee-jerk reaction to the concept of the Hippy generation prior to them, where people could do what they needed to so long as they didn’t harm others or the environment. In my understanding, this is an ideal perspective (I have always claimed I was born a generation late), but it does not reach far enough. The future generations see the decaying planetary environment that is currently in place. They see all the people who do not have enough to survive appropriately, and the way that society looks down upon these people because they do not help themselves out of the lower levels of society. No acknowledgement is given to un-level playing fields or the extremely difficult obstacles that have been placed in the way of most of these folks. The Storm is born from what is being done to re-balance things to be able to provide capability and capacity to those that want it.

No, I am not saying that people trying to achieve these balances are at fault for The Storm. I am saying the friction of their desired aims against the current established perspective of the so-called “haves” is causing much of what we currently have going on over our heads. That friction is causing the backlash (perceived or not) from those in positions of so-called power. I believe that this is what allowed the current US President to be elected, since most of the folks that are catching that backlash have been taught that their vote doesn’t mean anything. But that’s only a symptom of everything. The cause continues to be the struggle between two different perspectives over the value of life. Don’t think so? Recently, Governor Abbott noted in a conference call with other legislators in the state of Texas that re-opening the state would certainly result in more deaths attributed to COVID-19. Who is mostly at-risk in that situation? The wage workers in the retail stores that just opened. The lower ends of the workforce, who have been badly impacted by the lack of income from a shutdown. Those with monetary means are certainly taking a hit, but not as devastating as those wage workers who typically live from paycheck to paycheck. So, how do we know its ok to completely re-open the state and claim “victory” over a virus? Well, you need lab rats…and in chess the pawns go first. Pawns are expendable. On the chess board, these are the wage workers.

The Storm is a form of class warfare, in my opinion. And its not. Many of the people that need a leveled playing field are those wage workers. And before you accuse me of propping up in favor of my own status, I haven’t been a wage worker since 2000. However, I do know all too well what it is like to be living from paycheck to paycheck. Where tomato soup and ramen become the primary staples three to five days before the paycheck hits the account. Where a single automobile part failure can send a family budget spiraling out of control for weeks to months before recovering to where things were prior to that moment. But The Storm is a form of class warfare, and at the same time it is not. It is about finding empathic solidarity with your fellow human beings, and changing the rules from where things are set by the current societal perspectives.

Back in 1985, less than a year out of high school, I was taking a Sociology class at LSU-Shreveport. In order to demonstrate the differences in society, the class was divided into three groups – upper, middle, and lower classes. The goal of the upper class was to insure that all members stayed in that class. The goal of the middle class was to propel members upward into the upper class while insuring that no members fell into the lower class. The lower class was to propel members into the middle class. Each member of each class would draw a card that gave them a certain number of points each round. If members of the middle class and lower class had points higher than a member of the group above them, they would exchange places. In other words, if a member of the middle class had more points than the lowest member of the upper class, the two would change places in their respective groups. Predictably, when the points for each round were passed out, the upper class distributed their points among their group to insure that the lowest point members were as close to the overall group as possible. The members of the lower class would pool all their points for the round and give these to the individual with the highest number of points to move them into the middle class. The middle class group never shared their points with any of the other members – or if they did, it was an extremely rare occurrence. After about five rounds, I was in the middle class group. I set my cards down and announced that ALL of my points would be evenly distributed among the other members of my group. The professor asked me what I was doing. I stated that I realized that this was class warfare, and I had no desire to participate in such a mechanism. I was allowed to sit on the outside and declared to be “an anomaly” – essentially a random segment that exists but should be ignored as being insignificant. I have often wondered what the professor would have said if the rest of my classmates had enough spinal material to have done the same.

In a manner of speaking, my stepping out of the classroom exercise was similar to what we are experiencing with The Storm. In that classroom exercise, I received a zero, even though I had initially participated prior to my declarative moment. That was the backlash moment, my “Storm” within the classroom. We have always had those that wanted to have others treated equally within society. For the most part, their voices were small and considered insignificant. Today, “The Storm” is the equivalent of what might have happened in that classroom if my fellow students had joined me in semi-exile from the exercise. Many elements of today’s Storm are from the consequences of our collective actions as a society to keep things “status quo” when more and more people are realizing that the “status quo” is no longer truly working. Because they are willing to stand up and shout that a change is needed, you see the consequences of those actions.

Please realize, I am not stating that this is a bad thing. In fact, I am a firm believer that we need to go through this to achieve what is necessary. Balancing the equation and leveling the playing field are some of the necessary elements that need to be created to allow our society to evolve beyond where we are. Certainly, I can see the elements of a “crumbling Empire” and the “death of Capitalism” encompassed within that, even though I see it more as the pains of an “evolving Empire” and a “re-thinking of Capitalist theories.” I am certainly not looking for a dystopian societal paradise. Right now, my focus is making it through the Storm with as many of you as I can. As the song says, I’m standing here, and I want you to live. Even if you are on the other side of what I see and believe. Because its not just the human thing to do. Its the right thing to do.

–T /|\

Thinking About: Voted Most Likely Not to Be What You Thought a Pagan Is

Not that long ago, I wrote a blog post about not being the kind of Druid you think I might be or some such nonsense. The basics boiled down to not being what people conjure up in their minds when it comes to the concept of what a Druid is. Given that, I’m not likely what you expect a Pagan to be either, and yet I am. When you mention to people what they think a Pagan is, the typical response is some kind of drug-crazed, hippy-type, who sleeps with whoever and whatever they damn well please. They have a pack of tarot cards jammed into one of their pants pockets, and have adopted some crazy-assed name like “moonbeam” or something.

Ok, I fit some of these silly stereotypes, just not that well. I’m not drug-crazed, unless you count the hard-core coffee addiction, and the occasional snort of whiskey when my diabetes doc isn’t looking. I am what people would “420 friendly” even though I don’t smoke the stuff. I’m just not out to condemn those that do partake. And then there’s my childhood nickname of “Elf” that has stuck with me into my fifties. Yeah, I might be related to Moonbeam in some fashion. But the reality is that is about as close as I seem to get to many of the other Pagans I have met.

Most of what I am relating to here are really horrible stereotypes. The truth is that you will find Pagans in many walks of Life. For instance, when I was in the military, I was a very open Pagan. My superiors knew about my beliefs. Some of them were quite the assholes about it, and that may have contributed a bit towards my dismissal from the Air Force over a missed formation. Most of the Pagans that I encountered in the military ranks were junior enlisted. There were only a handful of Non-Commissioned Officers (including myself) that I encountered. But there was one Commissioned Officer, a Major in Army Intelligence. Now Commissioned Officers do not frequently mesh with enlisted folks, and when they do, its typically with higher Non-Commissioned Officers – mostly because of the similar ages. This Major was also in a career field that is fairly sensitive, so his religious preferences were fairly well carved in such a way to not led any speculation to Paganism. The point here is that this Major came from a much different part of the military ranks as most of the Pagans I encountered. And its not that different out in the civilian world either.

Many Pagans seem to come from fairly lower ranks within the economic stratum of everyday life. The keyword here is “seem”. I have met Pagans from all levels of economic stratum in society. However, sometimes it seems that most of the Pagans that are out there struggle to make ends meet. An interesting observation in pre-corona virus days, and one that is indeed difficult to fully explain. At least to the naked eye. However, its not really all that inconceivable to find Pagans that are fairly well off, financially. I would hate to say that Paganism only seems to fully reveal itself to people in the lower economic stratum in our global society. I’m sure it would provide a fascinating study, by someone other than me, for a university dissertation. For the moment, I will postulate that it only seems that Paganism is largely made up for folks from a middle-to-lower economic stratum in society as a whole. Seemingly, it makes sense since the economic stratum is skewed heavily towards the lower income and economic stratum by a wide and varying level of factors and variables. But like I said….a study for some future Pagan academic.

More men than women in Paganism? I would say its about an even split, until you start looking into specific aspects of Paganism. Then, you can find some very extreme disparate data points between the sexes. Add to that folks of transgender status, folks who do not identify by any gender, those who identify in dual genders – and any other combination and thought you can come up with – and this particular data point becomes a very messy perspective to handle. No wonder the federal government has been slow to add a fourth gender category to the gender assignment category within the Federal Department of Education. Certainly, it has proven to be a near herculean task for colleges and universities to deal with the male, female and unreported categories, particularly in environments with open enrollment standards. I still stick to the 40/40/?? split….

So, I started this out with pointing out that I am probably not the type of Pagan you envision. Honestly, let me dress like I usually do – a Grateful Dead tshirt, torn up jeans, tennis shoes and my Grand Teton Association hat…and I just look like a tired, burned-out stoner hippy type. I could literally blend in with many other individuals of my age (mid 50s) on a casual Saturday in the park. Stick me with a group of Pagans…and I sort of stick out like a sore thumb. I’m older. I’m more out-of-shape. And I don’t really have a flair for the dramatic. Aside from my Awen pendant or my Ying/Yang wolf necklace…you would be pretty hard-pressed to identify me as a Pagan in that crowd. How am I not what you might have expected? Well, if you had seen me at the Austin WitchFest…you would know what I am talking about.

Now for the bigger question. What does it matter? Really? Because when it gets right down to the brass-tacks in the Witch’s brass bra in the dead of Winter….it really doesn’t matter. Paganism has never been about how much better you dress than someone else. Or how much you can out-Pagan the other Pagans. If that’s your idea of Paganism, well – more power to you. You will have a difficult time associating with me as a Pagan. And to be honest, that’s fine. I’ll still treat you as a Pagan because you said you are. I have no reason to doubt you. Furthermore, I have no desire to do so. My idea of Paganism deals with my experiences with the World around me – not judging others on their own experiences. I’m here on my Pagan walk, not yours. You can; however, invite me to walk for a bit on your Path with you through the forest. I’ll be more than happy to do so. Not because I’m validating you as a Pagan. Rather, I find you an interesting person and would love to walk through the forest and talk for a bit. Maybe even exchange Emails so we can continue the conversation later in private. Paganism, to me, isn’t about judging you – its about finding a connection between us that we can turn into a tighter, more constructive bond. And in this day and age…we can all use a friend that looks out for us.

–T /|\\

Standing Against the Waves on the Beach

Hey, welcome to Tuesday! Back once again at the WordPress console, getting started on something to write. Today, I’ve got Pandora Radio’s “Zakk Wylde” channel playing. So that’s the basic soundtrack while I am trying to twirl out another topic.

These are some really strange times currently taking place. Life was already weird here in the States with Trump in place as President. Add a global pandemic on top of that, with the “shelter-in-place” and “lock-down” craziness – and its definitely a surreal environment, that’s for sure.

Currently, I have “Throwin’ It All Away” playing on my headphones. These lyrics just struck a major note with my thoughts….

You’re just throwin’ it all away
No you didn’t care to see the light of day
You’re just throwin’ it all away
Like the sand upon the beach
Your crashing waves came took you away

So, this evokes a thought that used to run like a rat in a cage in my mind back when my life would hit those imploding moments. I recall one really tough point in time – when I left the US Air Force after eight years. I didn’t leave on the greatest note, I was discharged for my own fuck-ups, but also because the lifer (career military) that was my First Sargent did not believe I was worthy of being in *his* Air Force. When I made it back to the states (I was stationed in Germany during all of this turmoil), I had no job prospects nor any plan on where to live. My bank account had less than $300 in it. Essentially, I had hit rock bottom in my life, through my own dumb fault. At that moment, life certainly had that “crashing waves on the sand” feeling to it.

The next few weeks were spent trying to figure out where things were going to go. Eventually, my mother and father allowed me to move into their house. Then it was a matter of piecing things together and trying to figure out where to go from this point. I spent a lot of time trying to find something compatible with the job of “cryptographic, command-and-control systems, operations and maintenance” which is not a really sought after skill set in the civilian world. The next step was to break things into the component parts that made up the job, and see which ones fit what I was capable of doing. In the meantime, I went back to college, seeking a degree (Associates level – 2-year) that would be helpful for my skills to be showcased to an employer. Step-by-step, I worked on trying to get things back up-right. Unfortunately for me, I was trying to get things back to where my life had been. Big mistake.

You see, this wasn’t about rebuilding my life to where it was. I was never going to get back to that. No, this was about building my life up from that point into what it would become. There was a time of necessity, not of memories. It took time, but I eventually made it back into the Information Technology world, and found ways to put myself in the right spot at the right time for the employment that was available. There was a lot of re-inventing of who I was at that time to fit the new job descriptions. None of it was a move up a corporate ladder. I did eventually make it to a position of Vice President of Technology Operations at a very small company. But I found climbing higher up in a company only removed me further from what I loved to do. I’m not cut out to be a manager, and I am very well aware of that. I am happiest when I have my fingers inside the machines or am working on the programming languages.

So, let’s translate some of that to where the world is at currently. I am sure there are a handful of y’all that are looking around in panic. The stability of a job seemingly has been pulled out from underneath you. Everything looks uncertain. You cannot see a way through the miasma that seems to have settled on life at this moment. You can feel the panic as you try and see a way forward into the future. I grok you, like you wouldn’t believe.

I have been there. I know that aspect of an unstable ground to stand on. The first thing to do, in my perspective, is to stop with the panic. Assess where you are, what you have, and what you need. Trust me, there’s a lot of stuff in your life that you don’t really need to worry about going to the wayside. I just got finished with moving out of one place…you would not believe the amount of stuff that I realized that I didn’t need. So, take a good look at what is important and necessary. That will be different for every person. The next step for me was to find somewhere that I could land for a temporary period of time, while I tried to set myself for the next direction. After that, it was a matter of implementing the work and effort it was going to take to achieve what I needed on my own. The important part? Having the friends, family and relatives who will be willing to help you with some solid footing – out of love. You might not think you have that, but you do. Everything is just so clouded with your panic that you’re not able to assess where that is. That’s why the first thing is to not panic.

Now, don’t be fooled. All of this takes hard work, personal drive, and the desire to make change into reality. But you already do this in your life. You have done that on your Spiritual Path. Sure, you have stumbled and sometimes even fall flat on your face and directly on your butt. That happens. Sure, feel the pain, let some tears fall, and then get back up. You have done that on your chosen Spiritual path. You can do that in your life as well.

Yeah, being closeted up in your home surely sucks. But this pandemic is not going to be the far-flung future. Stay in your home to avoid catching this virus. Stay in your home to avoid being an unknowing carrier of this virus to others. Take some time to ground yourself hard and deep in your Spiritual Path. You have lamented that you never have time to work on things that you need to do. Now is that time. Find time to play too. Lots of games online or in the gaming system attached to your tv. Lots of books to read. Now is the time to focus on you. Pay your bills, if you can. If not, talk with the people you owe money to. Not in a panicky way. Calm, cool, collected. No matter what the answers are – you will find a way. I’m confident that you will. Because I believe in your ability to turn things around, just as I did.

Lastly, let me point you to a book that has helped me numerous times when the world gets dark and crazy. Cat Treadwell‘s “Facing the Darkness“. This book has become one of my most valuable resources to go to when things turn sideways. When I first read the book, a lot of the scenarios talked about in here didn’t seem like they would apply to me. Turns out that a better way to go through the book might be to look through the scenarios and find one that equates best with your situation. Then read that section and dive deep into your understanding of things, as well as how to get through those rough times. I strongly recommend this book….

–T /|\

Finding Serenity in an Exploding World of Chaos

I run into these little writer’s hurdles from time to time. So much noise, but so little that I want to really focus on. I mean, its not really writer’s block – I have the topics to pull from, but I really just don’t want to. Its not like I can’t just turn to the left or the right and move around this funk. That’s really not that hard to do, but it means no blog post. Considering how far off the normal schedule I have gotten in the past few weeks, I just don’t want to NOT write a blog post.

There are plenty of cause célèbre that I could just pick up and start examining, but I am literally burned out on political discourse or trying to winnow some aspect of logic from one side or another of an argument or discussion. None of that sounds like what I really need, at least right now.

I just want something similar to a long drive through the Rocky Mountains, Craig Chaquico’s albums on random and continuous play – just low enough to be heard as background music, but not loud enough to preclude conversation. We just drive aimlessly through the back roads, enjoying the gorgeous scenery before us, and talking about whatever light conversational topic comes to mind. Hungry? We can stop at a roadside joint, and sample some of the food. Hope its BBQ though. I could do with a mean brisket and a cold beer right about now. But you would have to do the driving afterwards. Safety first, you know.

There are a couple of places in the southern Rocky Mountains where there are forests of Silver Birches. I would love to stop at a walking trail and take in the beauty of all of that. Listening to the winds blowing through the trees, the leaves using that time to whisper to us. And the conversation remains light. No need to solve the world’s problems here. Just time to let go of the tension, relax, and let the spring uncoil. Serenity indeed.

An evening would be spent on the porch of a cabin, deep in the woods with a clear line of sight of the ridge just a few miles away. The dark stars above us, as we toast one another in the quiet. The conversation remaining light. Serenity at last.

As a Pagan who has spent most of his life in the city or suburban settings, I miss the forests and the mountains. These are my easy reset buttons. A week away, with very little connection to the outside world, and I can find myself easily rested. But as a human being, a member of a very social species, I find it is easy conversation that I miss the most. As a wider society, we have become obsessed with constantly moving, constantly taking in and processing information – forever on the go. We sometimes forget to take the down-time. To hold a loved one’s hand. To turn off the news and cuddle on the couch, watching some mindless TV show or a movie that we can both get lost in. To basically find the time to wind down, and let the constant waves of the world’s emotions and energies pass high above us.

To be honest, I have grown tired of the constant political coverage. Or the newest emergency that springs up, which we have to deal with in the next five minutes – or else. I get that all of this is important. But we cannot live our lives constantly on the edge. Our bodies will quickly wear down, and we will find that we have issues handling even the most basic of troubled moments, like “where did I set the car keys down when I came home last night?”

I miss the Rocky Mountains. Every year, as the weather gets warmer, I get the twitch to go. But I cannot just take off whenever. Money, timing, and a whole host of other things all play against that. That still doesn’t quiet the strong affection I have for that area of the world. I love Ireland as well, for a lot of similar reasons – and the trip is even less feasible for me for all the same reasons.

To combat this, I utilize my own personal Inner Grove. Its all inside of me. My Inner Grove looks a lot like the forests in the southern Rockies, thicker the lower you are on the mountain. My specific Inner Grove had three trees when I started creating this within my Mind’s Eye. Now there are five. My silver birch is the center, with two oaks off to either side. Since then, a southern Pine and an Apple tree have joined this grouping. Next to the silver birch is a massive sedimentary rock, shaped like a huge hump. Or at least the part that sticks out of the ground. There is a blue-ish, green-ish tint to the rock, making it seem very out-of-place. This is where I spend my time meditating. All of this has aspects of the Rocky Mountains within it, purposefully. It is that landscape that calls to me. This Inner Grove is my sanctuary when I cannot physically go to where I wish to be.

Creating and growing this sanctuary, even in my mind, has taken time. At one point, I had envisioned a small cabin within, where dozens upon dozens of crows would come and sit – all calling out continuously. Eventually, I abandoned that, in favor of a much quieter setting – one where I could listen to the wind. The two Oaks and the silver birch have always been a part of the scene, both trees having deep and personal significance to me.

You could create your own concept of an Inner Grove. You merely need to take the time, and envision what it is that you need in your meditations. Consider it to be a personal and magickal way of having your own Room of Requirement. Anytime you have need of space to be clam, cool, and collected – you merely open your Room of Requirement door, and there you are. What it really looks like in there? Well, that’s up to your mind. or if you prefer, you can pick a moment from within your life, and use that as your Inner Grove…

Carving at a Roman Spring
Carving at a Roman Spring near Kaiserslautern, Germany

When I was stationed in Germany, in a wooded area just south of the town of Kindsbach (between Kaiserslautern and Landstuhl) is a rather sudden cliff of rocks, about forty to fifty feet high. In this area is the Heidenfelsen, which is a sanctuary where a spring is located. On days that I was not on duty, I would drive out to the Fussball (soccer) field on the west of town, park my 1962 Ford Econoline Van and hike in to the springs. I would sit near the spring, and listen to the sounds of the wind in the trees, the birds singing, the cars whooshing by on the autobahn, a little over two miles away, and the rumble of the jets of the aircraft at nearby Ramstein Air Base. As evening fell, walking through these woods was absolutely magickal. You could feel the atmosphere change from something very light to something very dark and heavy. On occasion, you could hear wild boar snorting and snuffling, as they pawed at the roots of trees, looking for food. Those sounds usually meant that it was time to beat a retreat back to the van. Boars were never a good thing to run into in the dark, given their territorial and protective nature.

I remember getting caught in a rainstorm while I was in these woods. The patter of the rain as it hit the canopy of leaves above, coupled with the deeper sound of collected drops falling from the leaves to the ground was a sweet, nearly deafening sound. Deafening until you realized how quiet it was in the woods. The smell of the petrichor and the sound of that rainfall have never left me. When I encounter either, I am instantly transported back to the wonderful place.

Yes, there is plenty going in the world. We are tugged at from nearly every direction for our attention, our energies, our monies…and the effort is draining on so many levels. We all need a break of some kind or another. Cuddle on the couch and watch something to get away…or spend your time in meditation…or whatever it is that you choose to do. Just remember, everyone needs a break…even you.

Of Paladins, Sorcerers, Lawful Evil and Lawful Good. Its a Politics Post.

I get criticized for a lot of things that I write – both here and on Facebook. Usually, it’s an opinion that I have made concerning one thing or another. Typically, it’s my political posts that tend to have me catching the Nine Hells in the teeth. To be completely honest, I am certainly “ok” with that. There is no way I expect anyone to agree completely with me on anything, not even those that are the closest to me. If I wanted clones, I would have contacted the Prime Minister of Planet Kamino.

Tonight, is one of those nights…so-called “Super Tuesday” in the Democratic Primaries. I think it’s rather interesting that folks are already digging in for their candidates – with hopes that they will get to vote for what correlates best to their interests. I assessed the Democratic field a good while back and had quietly picked Amy Klobuchar as my favorite entrant. Sadly, for me, she withdrew from the Democratic primaries and shifted her support to former Vice President Joe Biden. I guess that’s cool…I have wanted Uncle Joe to withdraw from the race for some time now – not because I don’t believe in him. I feel he should retire from politics, after a long career within that realm. I tend to catch flak from Biden supporters for that representation of my opinion.

Then there’s the “Vote Blue No Matter Who” group that is actively seeking support for whichever candidate wins the nomination. I’m sorry, I just cannot do that if Sanders or Bloomberg get the nod. As much as I view Trump as an unmitigated disaster after four years, I don’t see either of those two being any better. Undoubtedly, I catch all kinds of the Nine Hells from the VBNMW and Sanders crowd. Not a whole lot from the Bloomberg crowd though – probably because I don’t know too many people leaning in his direction for this election.

But all of that is my own opinion. I took the time to formulate how I felt, and what position I would take. I have no desire or need to explain why my reasoning is any better than anyone else’s. I certainly don’t question the sanity of my friends wanting a Bernie nomination for the Democratic side of the coming election. I don’t agree, but I certainly don’t see a need to piss on their parade.

I have mentioned before that I see a lack of respect in a lot of the world’s political and social climates. There is a lot of the Anakin Skywalker logic (“If you are not with me…then you are my enemy”) floating around out there. I may not agree with you, but that does not mean that I should be equated as your enemy. I just disagree with you. It’s as simple as that. I am quite sure, if we sat down and had a civil conversation, we could find enough common ground to at least be friendly to one another. I have never judged my relationships with others based solely on political perspective. I truly doubt I will start doing that anytime in the near or far future.

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

A few folks have stated that I ride the center line of Life – trying to be a neutral Rogue in a world of Lawful Evil Sorcerers and Lawful Good Paladins. You would be sort of correct. I have no desire to join in with the Sorcerers or the Paladins. In fact, I believe if we set down the spell books, left the swords and armor behind – we could have an awesome time in the local tavern talking and swapping stories.

I have no desire to be at center stage, unless it means that we can all sit down at a table later, have a drink, a laugh, and a story together. For me, none of this equates to hardline alignments, as defined in the Dungeon Master’s Guide or the Player’s Handbook. The alignments are suggestions of how to be your character, guidelines if you will. I look at political parties in a similar vein. The core ideals of each party are what appeals to each individual. The rest is merely suggestions that you don’t have to follow in any hardcore fashion.

Certainly, I will catch Nine Hells for a lot of what I have written here. Do I believe what I have written? Of course, I do. I would not have written it if I did not. What I do not believe is that anyone must agree with a single word I have written here. Honestly, I would rather you engaged your brain, and did some figuring on your own. If you decide that much of what you see and believe is like my thoughts – wonderful. If not – wonderful. People thinking for themselves and coming to a position that is the product of their own decision-making will always be tops in my book – regardless if you agree with me or not. Though I’d prefer some company on this lonely patch of rocky ground. 🙂

–T /|\

Feed Lemon Ice Cream to the Whales!!

Life on the inter-webs is always a roller coaster ride. There are great days, and there are crappy days….and so very few days in between to keep the incline between the other two types from being so steep. I catch nine kinds of Hell from folks, no matter what position I take on an issue. Given that most of my stuff that I post is largely my opinion, I’m used to being on the open-end of the flame thrower. If you stick your head above the crowd, you’re bound to get rocks thrown at you. Occasionally, one or two will find their intended mark.

Lately, I have been getting blasted for not having the same opinions as other folks – not an uncommon song from the canary in the coal mine. How dare I not slam Trump every chance that I get presented to me. Never mind my point that I wouldn’t slam previous Presidents for the same issues, and I am only trying to keep my perspective from getting too entangled with my outrage over the other stupid shit the guy does. How dare me that I don’t follow along with this or that cause that you are championing?? I should have the good sense to be on the right side, because that’s the side you are on….right? Yes, I have taken fire from folks for not being as into their cause of the moment. Because I dared to not agree with the reasoning that Beluga whales should be fed lemon sherbet ice cream with long, silver spoons.

Well, I am not totally against feeding ice cream to the whales; though I think they would be a lot more appreciative of a large helping of krill or plankton or whatever their normal staple of food may be. But the reason that I am not going to fly over to the whale feeding bandwagon comes down to one thing – its not necessarily tops on my list of things to get completed. I have plenty of things that I have to get accomplished. Both in the course of my normal everyday, boring, mundane life; as well as what I have been tasked with by my Gods. Neither Crow or Coyote are overly demanding, so when I get asked to accomplish something for Them, I tend to do what I was asked for. Plus, I have another Deity that I have been working with as well, and I tend not to discuss Her business, but its stuff that needs to be done – and done by me. That was the agreement. And I stand by my agreements.

Does that mean I don’t give a shit about your cause of the moment? Nope, I sure don’t. What? Hey! I’m kidding!!! No, seriously I am kidding. Typically, folks take it that you are either uninterested in their cause of the moment if you don’t show the same level of enthusiasm as they do or if you show even the slightest point of disinterest. After all, what they are thinking is paramount throughout the world, right? They are thinking about it and sinking every bit of energy into it – the rest of the world should have an equal level of interest. Right?

The reality is that shoving your cause of the moment down the throats of others is a sure-fire way to turn them off to your message, as well as drive them away from any future message you might have. Manifesting and cultivating allies and friends to your cause requires a much lighter touch. Have deep discussions with associated facts, not preaching parties. No one likes a rabid, foaming at the mouth fundamentalist shouting at the room, one foot on the coffee table, the other balancing on the arm of the couch. No one hears what you are shouting, they are more likely wondering if you foot is going to go through the glass-top of the coffee table in the next few moments.

Having those deep discussions, where you show your energy and passion in the controlled but excited manner of pointing out the facts. The whales enjoy the lemon flavored Sherbet, particularly the Beluga variety. And in exchange, the Belugas are willing to setup, manage, and teach Beluga/English language classes. Five scoops of lemon Sherbet will get you a complete one hour lesson. A tub of the stuff will provide you with a lifelong membership to the Beluga tribe!! How exciting!! Is there a ritual involved? Yes? I’m in!! I gotta run to the store….

So, it might be best when pushing your cause of the moment to take a little longer to read your audience. Trying to sell me on voting for Bernie Sanders? That’s as unlikely as three feet of snow on a 100-degree day here in Texas. The whales need lemon Sherbet?? I’ll make a quick run to the grocery store. Tell them to wait until I get back. I hope they like orange, if the lemon flavored ones are sold out…

Keeping Things on Level Ground

Over on Facebook, I let folks write me questions on Facebook Messenger, which I turn into short anonymous questions that I answer as short statuses. Sometimes, the questions get a bit squishy and have some non-sensical attitudes to them. Sometimes, the questions can touch a nerve with me, such as the one below. I’ll explain more in a little bit…

PM Q: In light of John Beckett’s recent post on Pagan Leadership, how would you use his post to help define yourself in terms of being a Pagan Leader? Before you poo-poo the idea, you are a Pagan Leader to many of the people who read what you write.

Holy smeg. Well, first off, I read John‘s recent blog post on the Thirteen Questions for Pagan Leaders. I thought it was an excellent blog post with lots of information for someone looking to be a leader of a group. I would highly recommend it to anyone looking to be the leader of a group of Pagans. That said, that’s not me. I’m not in any level of desire of being in charge of a group or directing the ritual practices of a group. I’m not built that way and I would turn that potential “job” down every single time that anyone would offer it to me. I’m an individual Pagan…a Solitary or Solitaire or Solo practitioner…whatever you want to call it. It is just me here.

Sure, I grok the idea that I have some element of leadership in the fact that I am willing to stick my neck out there and offer my opinions and perspectives via my blog. None of that means that I am the be-all, end-all of anything related to Paganism, aside from what I do as an individual. But that’s it. And to be bluntly honest, that’s about as far as I am willing to dip my toe into those waters. Ya know, perhaps I should turn all of this into a blog post…provided I can find more to really say beyond this…I am flattered that people would think of me as some kind of a “leader” but I am definitely not here to direct anyone else’s spiritual path other than my own. In the words of Edgar Friendly: “I’m no leader. I do what I have to. Sometimes, people come along.”

Now, my problem here isn’t John or even his excellent blog post – though I have had that posited to me privately since I wrote this. I know John outside of Facebook and the internet. We are very different Druids, which is understandable given that we are unique individuals who walk our Paths in the manner we each need to. I like John, and consider him to be a good friend. Yes, I disagree with him on some perspectives that he provides, but again – I am me. I know how to handle things in relation to what works for me. I have mentioned it before – we are not clones of one another. And if we were, I’d be disappointed in both of us in that regard. But as I noted, this isn’t the hot-button item for me. It certainly seems to be for a few folks who have approached me over that status.

No, my issue is being lifted up into a position of being a “leader” – being placed on a pedestal, of sorts. All (seemingly) because I am willing to provide my perspective here on this blog. Most of what I write here is either my experience or my perspective. It is not meant to be canonical law, but a potential starting point for others to explore from. I have no desire to be placed upon a pedestal and touted as the “answer” to how Paganism should be done. Shit folks, I’m scared of heights. Putting me up in high air will require me to find a way down back to level ground.

I was also asked about what mentors I have. I replied as follows…

PM Q: Who do you count as a mentor?

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

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

When I was on a Wiccan Path, my High Priest and High Priestess took a lot of time with me to drum out some of the military perspectives on training that I had accumulated in my first two years in the Air Force. They both were instrumental in getting me to not place people in positions of power over me. Our conversations were typically held in their living room or around their dining room table. I could interrupt, argue, debate, disagree or agree with any topic that was brought up. So long as I was able to come to a level of reasoning on my own – even when it was diametrically opposed to what either of them was saying – everything was ok. Things were kept on a conversational level. If emotion crept into what I was trying to say, I was asked to stop and consider the why of that emotion before continuing. Everyone in the conversation was an equal, even if our understanding of a topic may not have been.

J & M helped me to realize that no one needed to be above anyone else in a conversation. Everyone could be afforded equal respect. There was no rank. There was no deference to an individual’s experience. No one made canonical law. Everyone was expected to turn over the topic for themselves and determine where the truth was actually located. Any power dynamic that was provided to our High Priest and High Priestess was done under an understanding that what we handed over was more precious than anything in the world – and that this trust would be handed back as soon as ritual or whatever need was being covered by that dynamic was completed.

I am not an expert on anything, except on what will or won’t work for me. I can make suggestions on what works for me and how that might translate for you. However, my expectation is that if you do decide to try what I did or what I offer as a possibility – that you will imitate it the first time, and then alter it to meet your specific needs each successive time after. That, in essence, you will make the ritual your own, you will make the magick your own, you will make the prayer your own. Spiritual Practice is not a cookie cutter world. At least not from where I sit.

I have no need to be considered an expert for anyone except myself. I am happy to mentor people in the basics of what I do, but the expectation that changes will be made to tailor things to you and your needs will always be there. I really am no leader. I run a group of one. Me. I’m no teacher, at least that is what I keep telling myself. But to some degree, we are all teachers. The younger generations watch to see what we “elder” Pagans are doing. And then they alter those practices, bend these practices to their will and needs….as it should be. But please….please…do not set me on a pedestal. I really am scared of heights…let’s keep this on level ground, where we can look in one another’s eyes while we talk and discuss…