The quest for spiritual experience begins with the quest for feeling. What moves you? Has anything in your life been beautiful enough to make you cry? What took your breath away, put you on your knees with awe, turned your world over and shook it?
The person who has no standard forms to fall back on, is obliged to invent and discover as they go and has no choice but to live their path. Such an approach demands relevance to the world we live in, requires responsibility and necessitates independent thinking.
Not that long ago, I remember the Pagan blogosphere was dotted with a few pieces answering the question of what the writer wanted to see the Pagan community build. A few folks mentioned shrines, temples, and sanctuaries as possibilities. And I do somewhat recall John Beckett making a notation of a Pagan-oriented seminary collegiate type of environment. In a recent post, Jason Mankey made a point about a Pagan Broadcasting Network. All of these are fantastic ideas, in my opinion.
I even have visions of all these ideas being combined into one. A Pagan collegiate campus, focused on religious studies, with a Pagan Broadcasting Network hosted in one of the buildings. All of it encapsulated and integrated into a forested environment, where the environment is allowed to grow wild. The broadcasting arm of the campus would provide audio and video materials of talks and lectures from many different Paths, and the music of Damh the Bard, Wendy Rule, Fionn Tulach, and many others would amble along the airwaves. A vision that truly grabs at my professorial heart and appeals deeply to my Pagan soul.
But I also have to be somewhat realistic. The chances of me seeing a vision such as this happen within this lifetime are fairly remote. Sanctuaries, Pagan musicians, and even Pagan-oriented collegiate environments are a reality. So how far down the road do I see this vision of my own? To be completely honest, I have no idea. It could be five years, it could be fifty. But this idea of a “building” vision got me to thinking about what I would like to see from the Pagan community on a smaller scale.
There’s a lot of things that I could desire from my Pagan community. I am proud of the way my local Pagan community stepped forward to donate canned goods and blood during last year’s Pagan Pride Day. But more intriguing to me, is the idea of a collegiate scholarship fund for a student looking to head to college. For me, the degree would be immaterial to the point – instead, I look at the fund as a monetary manner to invest in the future of our Community. I am not sure of the specifics related to this entire train of thought – that’s not the point. Plus, I have no idea what such a fund would take to get it running and such. But it is certainly a dream that I would love to see giving a chance.
But really, I am sure there are plenty of other dreams that people can have in regards to this question. After all, the Pagan community is a rather large, and quite a diverse group of beliefs and points-of-view. In the end, any and all of the visions that can be dreamed of really lead to one point – what do we envision for the future of our community? How do we go about continuing to build and grow our community? And considering the current growing pains that the Pagan community at large currently faces — this is quite the same as asking a six-year old child what he/she wants to be when they grow up. The resulting answer is likely to be quite different than the answer that eventually arises. And while the final answer may not be quite what was originally dreamed of – oh, think of the full, wonderful set of experiences that combined to bring that child to that point in adulthood. I certainly envy the experiences that the child will go through – having been there myself. And how I relish the experiences we shall go through as a Community, as we continue to grow towards the dreams we dream together….
Anyone who has known me for any length of time, knows about my aversion to using spell-work. Or as the remark was pointedly made to me – “you hate Magick”. Which is not correct. Magick is a daily part of my Life and my daily Path. Its spell-work that I find to be untoward. To be somewhat clear – spell-work, for me, is a manner of working with magick – utilizing it as a tool to achieve some desired goal. That might not be the definition that you may use, but its the one I am working from here.
Spellwork is a technique, but magick….well, magick is not a tool for me. Magick is something that occurs all around us, all the time. Its that feeling of awe, when you look up in the morning sky, and catch the first glimmers of the morning sun peeking over the distant horizon. Its that moment when you feel the embrace of your environment, feel its connection to you, and your connection to it. Its the feeling you get with certain pieces of music, the way the rhythm and the chords resonate with your body and mind, extract a whisper of a memory that embraces you in emotion. That moment of discovery, when you realize how something works or goes together or the way a theory presents even more avenues of thought to explore. When you lay back on the grass, look up into the trees, and realize that there’s a whole world up there that you never noticed before. magick is the awakening of the senses, and a widening of the perception of the world around you. For me, that’s the essence of what Magick is.
Its very difficult for me to see all of that as a “tool” – except that as I think upon it, its not that difficult to comprehend at all. At some point, human beings realized that rocks and sticks did a far better job as weapons than a man’s bare hands. Or that the same stick was a better application for creating a furrow in the ground for planting. And on and on and on. Its the creativity in determining how to utilize such applications that is the Magick for me.
I am not sure how anyone else defines the concept of Magick, only that I realize that whatever their definition is – it works for them. I know there will be plenty of people that disagree with me on the definition…or the application of the definition, and that’s perfectly fine with me. Nine Hells, if we were all the same, agreed on everything – this would be a really boring place, ya know??
Lone Wolf: The Innocence in Snow
The cold breeze through the fog-frozen window
Announced the arrival of the snow
From yesterday evening’s gray cloud cover
That shrouded the pale moon’s eye in the night
She squealed with joy at the sight of snow
The marvelous play-doh of Winter’s dress
She quickly dressed and was outside in a shot
I followed behind at a much slower pace
Standing on the porch, I watched her
Dancing and laughing in the white blanket of Winter
Making snow-angels against the embankments
Her tender face colored with a rosy chill
I watched her smile carefully through it all
Trying to burn that image into my mind
Remembering each line in her cheeks
The way her hair fell across her eyes
Smiling back, I laughed with her voice
As it twinkled with a gentle sound over the hills
A sound I wanted to remember intimately
Before I would leave her tonight
Try as I had to remove us from the outside world
The war that raged beyond our sight had followed us
It was no longer something I could avoid
It was no longer something we could run away from
The skies cried their frozen tears again
Their soft flakes of sorrow filling the air
Laughing she ran through the opening
Trying to catch them on her tongue
Such a scene of innocence before my eyes
It would be wiped away in a few days
Replaced by the horrors that awaited me
Where mankind had it’s own nightmare
I will miss my snow-covered mountains
The backdrop for her laughter
The canvas of her innocence
I only pray she will understand why
Experiencing life is simply that. Experiencing life with expectation is putting your own spin on something that simply ‘is’. The expectation strips away the meaning present in that simple moment – and replaces it with something that is external to that moment.
I am one of those people that watches. Perhaps a better way to term that – I am an observer. For instance, the tree in my backyard is one of those indicators that I constantly observe. Yesterday, I noticed that there are small buds on the ends of the branches – a typical sign for me that Winter is coming to a close, and Spring is about to put its foot through the door-frame. Late in the afternoon – the weather turned towards a hard frost with a large amount of sleet falling. This morning, the buds are even larger – I will be watching intently over the next few days to see if the leaves begin to sprout. I observe.
When I was running my podcast “From the Edge of the Circle” – a few times I likened the podcast’s name to my position within my Pagan community. I stood just on the edge of the widened circle, just barely in the glow of the fire and partially hidden in the shadows. Not out of the sight of anyone, but not in the bright glow that others may seek. And I have observed. I remember well the Satanic Panic of the mid-to-late 1980s, where Pagans were painted with a broad brush by the Christian community. Where some Pagans recanted their beliefs publicly to avoid the jaundiced eye of a public community that was willing to believe the worst rumors concerning something they did not understand. Where other Pagans put their lives and families on the line, publicly taking a stand for what they believed – demanded the respect and privacy that should have been afforded to them under the Constitution of the United States. I was in an enviable position as a military member, my rights were protected under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. I had no fear or need to hide who I was. But I observed what happened to my local Pagan community.
I was at the fringes of the “Witch Wars” that enveloped my community as well. The military sent me overseas as that process started to unfold. When I returned four years later, the Pagan community that I remember had drastically changed. There was no cohesiveness, no unity. There were small groups that did not talk to one another because of this reason or that. I had spent four years as a singular individual within my own Spirituality. I read books. I spent time in the forests of Germany. I found my strength within myself. I observed that I knew more than I had previously thought. Upon my return to my local community, I remained an individual – opting for no group. At least, at first.
When I did find what I thought to be a group of folks that I could work and grow with, I found myself embroiled in a growing collective of politics and internal power struggles. I watched. I observed how these power struggles consumed various areas and approaches to the group. I found none of this to be inviting for my own spiritual growth or adding to my own spiritual needs. And I left. Back to my own personal Path.
Here on the edges, I have watched and observed. My podcast and blog were the only manners in which I have stepped out into the community at large. The internet, as a communications tool, has changed a lot of the dynamics of how people connect with one another. My community is not the local entity that it once was. But the politics remain. The bickering remains. The endless struggle to try and define what this term means, or how it applies to these other people, or if it does not apply. Who is allowed to use this term to describe themselves. Are people “Pagan enough” to be included? Why certain people should be excluded – over whether their religious/spiritual beliefs and practices are correct enough or not.
I read. I listen. I watch. I observe. And I am just one Pagan. One person. Surely there are others. And I do believe that the Gods watch as well. I do not see the Gods as preparing themselves to wreak vengeance down upon those who revel in the bickering, politics, and such. That kind of action is for the Christian God. I believe the Gods watch, observe, and hope. They hope that we, as Pagans, as followers of Pantheistic or Polytheistic or whatever other -istic definition device you can dream up – they hope that we can again focus on the stuff that really matters: finding, developing and cultivating our connection to the Sacred. The “how” is not a real issue. Whether you do so through Zen meditation, or environmental efforts (such as picking up trash in your neighborhood), or camping, or what have you — the method is not important. What is important is that you find your connection to the Sacred, the strands that tie you into the rest of the world around you. And then strengthen that bond in whatever manner you can, or whatever is most useful for you.
In the meantime, They watch. So do I. So do so many other Pagans, some of which need a little guidance on how to take their first steps. And get turned off by the free-fall that they see. I am just one Pagan – one simple, 48-year old man – making my way through my daily Life. Watching and observing.