Consumer-Driven News…an Opinion….

I tend to avoid the news for a large part of my time. Mostly because its not really news – its just Entertainment sprinkled with bits of Information. All the major news players are guilty of it – Fox, MSNBC, CNN…and the sad part, is that once you leave the tv behind – its not much better on the internet. In fact, you have to be thousands of times more careful about what you read – since there is so much overly-slanted, and outright lies that are set out as “real” news. That’s one of the reasons I am glad there are sites like “The Wild Hunt” out there – which bring some (not all) of the news in a factual manner.

It was through TWH that I found out about the issues surrounding Kenny Klein. It was also through TWH that I found out about the reported ties between the recent Kansas City shooter and aspects of neo-Paganism. Unlike CNN, which seems to have originally reported the ties, TWH presented the story without a major slanted bias. And this is a sad thing. A major news outlet essentially could not see a way to report information as just that:  information.

I teach a class on Business Information Systems at my local college. I spend a lot of class time trying to show students that information presented on its own is just information. However, when a human being gets a hold of it – a bias automatically creeps into the reporting. In essence, when human beings get involved, information takes on the biased slant of the individual compiling the information into an analyzed report. That analysis is a report of the patterns that the data represented to the Analyst looking over the data. Reporting the news is no different. Information is presented to a reporter, that individual then takes the information and presents it in a way that he/she thinks the news outlet’s readers/viewers will understand the reported information. In a manner of speaking, the reporter spins the news report in a way that becomes palatable to the audience. An example would be to look at the different ways that Fox and MSNBC attempt to report any news related to President Obama. Fox spins the story to represent the President in a very unfavorable light. MSNBC will represent the same story in a way that sets the President in a positive light. The reality of the story is somewhere in between the two.

Earlier, I had set aside a point of caution towards trying to identify predators within our Pagan community. When we point fingers based on rumors or hearsay, we run the chance of accusing someone of something that they had no part in whatsoever. The accusation can be withdrawn, but the individual reputation that has been sullied cannot be repaired to its former status. Now, I am not saying that this is the case with the KC shooter. Its fairly obvious that the individual is the one that committed these acts of murder – and further, its obvious that he has a very sick, perverted, and twisted idea of what truth and justice are. An individual consumed by hatred and rage over an individual’s skin color, nationality, religion, creed, eye color, hair color, or what have you – is not dealing with the rational side of the world. It may be that he has some cursory tie to the Heathen community. But there has also been a lot of perversion of Heathen principles and ideals by individuals seeking something to substantiate their twisted hate. By grabbing a few strands of what the Heathen community uses in its principles and concepts, and combining that with perspectives of racial purity from the Nazi principle of Aryan dominance over the world – and braiding in some aspects of radical Christianity…folks like this have created their own sick and twisted idea of how the world should be.

Let’s be realistic here. There will always be radicals within any system of community or belief. There will always be individuals that take the ideals and twist to further or substantiate a socially unacceptable concept or perspective that they hold. History is replete with such examples. Instead of immediately jumping up and painting an entire community or belief system based on the actions of a few individuals – we should be careful not to twist the two together. I remember that many people here in America equated the actions of nineteen cowards with an entire belief system – and then stretched it further by visiting their naked anger and aggression on people who lived in the same town as they did – and sometimes just down the street. Jumping to conclusions based on a few cursory facts does nothing to further the concept of justice…nor does it bring about any sense of equality.

Our media does not help in this matter either. Sensationalized headlines may sell papers, and drive hits to the news outlet’s website – but it also helps feed the fires of irrational fears and actions as well. It also does a disservice to the entire concept of reporting the news. In this world of “Gotcha!” politics – and the desire to be the first to report the “story” – along with the increased readership and reputation that goes with that…we (the general “we” here) have become a society that is fascinated with the every move of certain individuals. How did they cut their hair, what cuss word did they utter to the reporter on the street, did they run over the reporter’s foot when trying to drive away (let’s not mention the fact that the reporter is right up against the vehicle – standing IN THE STREET). There’s no news in that. But it certainly is entertaining to many – otherwise the news outlets would not report such stuff.

Is the shooter in Kansas City news?  Yes. Is the shooter’s beliefs news? Yes. Therefore, since both items are news, we can assume that everyone else that follows that same belief is a psychotic killer in trainer like this shooter? And this is what I mean folks, this is how the news is given its bias. The reporter writes the story, presents some of the facts, and then draws a hard-line correlation between those facts and another point of view.

Can we recover our news outlets?  Can we get back to reporting the facts and letting the reader/viewer make up their own mind? I don’t know. I would certainly try to be optimistic and say its possible. But our consumer driven society places a high premium on “Gotcha!” politics and Infotainment stories. I am at a completely loss to figure out how to change that…

[Poetry] – Deity Dwells Within

I was digging through some of my older poetry – and I came across this particular poem. Now, my memory is not what it used to be, but if I recall correctly – I wrote this poem – with the awesome Lisa Tamara – when I was on leave in the United States from my time in Germany with the United States Air Force. We both worked on this online through a local BBS, if I remember. To be honest, I do not have a lot of my older poems – so when I stumble across these older works – they are cherished memories that I enjoy reading through – and remembering the creative process that gave birth to them.

Deity Dwells Within
3 Jan 1994
written with Lisa Tamara

Throughout the ages
Of limitless time
Man has wondered
And looked to the sky

In times of crisis
When needs arise
Man has prayed
Staring to the sky

For unanswered prayer
Such shaken faith
Man curses the Gods
Shaken fist to the sky

Such selfish desires
Unfettered pride
Man seems never
To look inside
We are merely a reflection of the potential
for Deity dwells within us all…

Reaching My Bardic Crossroads…

My Poetry Journal

My Poetry Journal

Writing has never been a big part of my life. I remember having so many problems trying to get thoughts out of my head and onto paper for class after class. In high school, and in college – I have had paper after paper returned to me with remarks such as “needs revision!” and “poorly written!” scrawled in red ink across that first page, along with a grade well below the grade I had wanted.

I can literally relive many of the times where I spent hour upon hour researching a topic for a paper, writing outlines, and rough draft after rough draft. Trying to find ways to shoe-horn quotes from “proper” sources to back up what I am trying to say in my papers. The techniques I developed, I try and pass on to my own students – knowing full well, that they will typically either ignore me, or develop their own methods for doing such writing. Yes, writing has never been my forte’.

Then again, I have events in my life that happen – that remind me that I am full of shit when I make that statement. This past week, just such an event occurred in my Life. Earlier in the year, after some cajoling from those that actually know I write poems, I entered my poem “Lone Wolf: The Innocence in Snow” in a Creative Writing Contest for my college. Early in March, I received a phone call telling me that I had won an award for it and confirming that I could make the awards ceremony. I had figured that I had won an Honorable Mention in the category. When the category was announced, my name was the last one called – First Place. I was literally shocked over it. But that was not the end of it. There is also a prize for Literary Excellence in Poetry as well – sort of a “best in show” award, that is given by the English department of my college. It is the very last award of the ceremony. My name was called for that too. That was Friday. It is now Sunday, and I am still in a state of shock.

But that state of shock has forced me to sit back and think about my writing. I remember writing a short story for my English teacher in my junior year of high school. The assignment called for a typed assignment, with a specific font, a specific margin, a specific minimum word count. I did none of that. I wrote the story the night before class – on notebook paper, handwritten, single-spaced, and on both sides of the paper. The story was about a young man named Timothy Pulthorne, who is listening to Black Sabbath’s song “Black Sabbath” on his walkman (yes, that’s how dated the story is – I wrote this in winter of 1982). While listening to the song, he contemplates the lyrics and how the writer has consigned his soul to Satan. At the end of the story, he opens his eyes to find Satan standing at the foot of his bed, smiling with a contract in one hand, and a pen in the other. Despite not turning in the assignment in the correct format, I received the highest grade in the class for my “creativity”. I remind you, I went to an all-boys Catholic school – so the topic was a bit risque’.

So, I am forced to reevaluate my perspective on my writing. Somewhere, deep inside me, is someone that can write – someone that can write material that touches and reaches people. Yes, deep inside me – there’s some kind of Bard. And I have been denying my abilities with the written word for quite a bit of my life. Its time I stepped up and faced the facts where that is concerned. I have ideas of where to take all of this…I just need the time to sort out what is my naivety of the entire process, and what is currently possible. Somehow, I have reached a crossroads I have never realized I was headed towards – but its a crossroads I would inevitably reach. Time to have a sit…drink a cup of tea, and wrestle with where to go from here. Besides, its always fun to sit at the crossroads – there’s a lot of interesting people to see and meet….

 

Review: Journeys of the Soul

Journeys of the Soul by Philip Carr-Gomm
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A combination of a biography on OBOD founder Ross Nichols – along with some of his writings, correspondence, and travel diaries that he wrote during his lifetime. Honestly, when I finished this book, I felt that I not only knew more about a man who died shortly after I was born – but that my world is far more enriched by both his contributions and my reading about him. There were a few instances were it was mentioned that Nichols could be considered as “not fun” in comparison to some of the more eccentric contemporaries of his time, but I found the opposite to be true. Nichols certainly sounded like the kind of individual I would enjoy sitting around his kitchen table, drinking some tea and discussing any topic that came to mind over the course of an evening. Or taking a stroll through the woods, discussing some of the more obtuse philosophies of Life. I started this book knowing some vague aspects of who Nichols was – I finished this book with a far greater understanding and appreciation of who he is.

View all my reviews

Why Not Christianity? (Part III)

DFW Pagan Pride Day 2013

DFW Pagan Pride Day 2013 – These are my kindred people

In the first two posts of this “series” – I took a look into how I try to answer the questions posed to me:  “Why Paganism?” and “Why Druidry?” In a manner of speaking, those particular questions were fairly easy to answer. Both questions allowed me to focus on what and who I am – and the reasons why I am on those particular Paths in my life. This last question is a little more difficult, because it is the exact opposite. I must take my focus away from something positive and step over towards answering a question in the negative. And to make it even more difficult, I will have to try and do this, without sounding like I am bashing on a belief system that many people I know find uplifting and positive influences in their own lives. If you feel that this post comes across as bashing on your beliefs or being overly critical or overtly negative on your beliefs – please, that is not my intention. I am merely trying to be open about how I answer this question that I get from my non-Pagan friends quite a bit:

Why not Christianity?

In some ways, its an unfair question. Sort of like asking someone that you just met if they have stopped physically abusing their significant other. And just like the other two questions, the best place to start an attempt at answering this question is from the beginning. Except, this time I have to go much further back. Into the late 1970s, in Montgomery, Alabama – my seventh, and eighth grade years.

My parents had started me at a public junior high school for the seventh grade. However, being a small, and uber-skinny kid, I was an easy target for bullies, and according to what they have told me – I did not thrive very well in large population classrooms. I vaguely recall Cloverdale Junior High School. About the only memories I really have are the line of school buses I had to walk in the mornings and afternoons – and my favorite class:  Reading. There were these speed-reading machines – designed to help you read faster and retain the information that you see.  You would read a short paragraph at a set speed, and then take a short multiple-choice quiz over the material. When you managed to score 100% on the quiz you could move up in speed, and in difficulty reading. I considered it a game, and did my best to not only excel in comparison to that of my classmates, but I wanted my times to be so great that no one could surpass me. And seriously, that is all I remember of that one year in public junior high school. Perhaps I blocked out the memories of being bullied by other kids…but whatever the case, my memories are not that vivid beyond that reading class and the school bus line.

My parents, wanting a good education for their oldest child, quickly moved me into Catholic school. As I have said before, my parents were not all that religious, but they were impressed with the education system that the school had – along with the small class populations. Trust me, as a college professor, it is far easier to deal with a class of twenty students than it is to deal with a class of sixty. Our Lady Queen of Mercy was the school I was enrolled into. Like any Catholic educational system, there was a class on the Catholic beliefs that each grade had to take. I read the materials, I did the homework. Much of the ritual aspect was really strange to me, but I managed to understand the basic precepts of what the Catholic faith was about. Jesus Christ died on the Roman crucifix and was resurrected to atone for the sins of humankind. Non-Christians were to be treated with the same kindness that any other human being should be – and the Christian should help them to understand the Good News of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Which was odd for me, since I did not believe in the divinity of Jesus. Smeg folks, I was what…ten?  Eleven? Being the naive kid that I was – I figured it didn’t matter what I believed. Everyone at the school would accept me for who I was. Was I ever wrong.

One afternoon, on the way to the Catholic class, I mentioned to one of the other students that the class was “interesting” – particularly since I didn’t believe in the divinity of Jesus. Shocked gasps rose up from the back of the line (my last name starts with a “V” – I am therefore always near the end of whatever line has been created), which soon brought the Nun instructor to discover the issue. My message was relayed by another of the students, and I soon found myself being towed to the Principal’s office by my left ear. I was deposited into a chair at the foot of the Father’s desk, my statement relayed from the Nun to the Father (and I was told to keep quiet when I tried to interject). A few very nasty glares were sent my way, and both walked out of the office. I found out a bit later that a phone call had been made to my parents summoning them to the school. While I waited for them to arrive, the Father kept asking me whether I was demon-possessed (how the Nine Hells should I know?), then read the resurrection passages out of all four gospels. When my parents arrived, I was threatened with being kicked out of the school. All over my statement of non-belief.

To say that this confused the Nine Hells out of me was an understatement. I had been reading that the non-Christian was to be met with respect, treated with dignity, shown what the kindness of Jesus Christ’s mercy can do for the status of your own daily life. And here was the head of a church, treating me like I had farted in his new car. Needless to say, my parents were contrite to the Father over the issue – and furious with me. Which confused me further, since they had never shown any measure of piety prior to this.  From here, I moved on to Montgomery Catholic High School, where the Catholic classes continued, but I had learned to keep my mouth shut at this point.  And then my father decided to retire from the United States Air Force, and move the family to Shreveport, Louisiana – for my last two years of High School.

Once again, my parents deposited me into a Catholic School – Loyola College Preparatory School for Boys. That’s right. The two major Catholic High Schools were separated by the sexes. I found myself having to wear a school uniform. Once a month, the entire school participated in a Catholic Mass. At one point, my teacher remarked that I was the only individual in my class that understood when to sit, stand, kneel, and how to properly genuflect. When she further remarked that I probably did not know how to receive communion, I promptly stood, and showed the two proper methods for doing so.

Why don’t you receive Communion, Tommy?

Because Miss Tabereaux, I’m not Catholic.

You can imagine how popular all that made me with my classmates. But the Catholic class my Junior year was different than anything I had experienced before. The teacher, Mr. Lerchie, set the class up as a Comparative Religion class.  One quarter of the class, we studied the entire Passion Play aspect through the lens of the rock opera “Jesus Christ Superstar”. He posed questions to the class about whether the resurrection was a host – and utilized the lyrics of Judas Iscariot in the rock opera as an example of how it could be. For the first time, I had an authority figure provide me with permission (of sorts) to turn my beliefs over and over – and examine them in the light.

It was here that I first started to answer the question of “why not Christianity?” – it certainly wasn’t going to be Catholicism for me. I had seen too many instances of Catholic adherents treating one another with kindness, and looking down their noses with contempt at non-Christians – “the unbelievers” was the descriptive of derision that was to be worn like a Scarlet Letter by the non-adherent. But thanks to Mr. Lerchie’s Comparative Religion class, I was aware that there were many other forms of Christianity to try.

I peeked at many different forms of Christianity, before settling on the Southern Baptist side of things. In Shreveport, there are literally several dozen Southern Baptist churches in the city. I soon found out where some friends were attending, and joined them in services. It took about two months before I started realizing I did not fit in here either. There was one guy in the entire church with shoulder-length hair. With my thigh-length hair, it did not take long before the whispers fell around behind us – we were pot-smokers. And nothing could be further from the truth. The hardest drug we touched was a six-pack of beer on Friday nights. Before and after church, we could be found over on the fire escape, playing chess or writing poetry. We were about as Bohemian Hippie as one could get – except that we listened to Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Stryper, and Messiah Prophet Band. We were metal-heads. It didn’t take long before people started forbidding their children from hanging out with us. And it wasn’t long until the hushed whispers turned into statements made out loud – just loud enough for us to hear. It didn’t take me long before I realized that this wasn’t where I needed to be.

Over the next five years, I would study about Christianity on my own. I found the entire religious concept to be a beautiful concept. Unconditional Love for all, including non-believers. A belief in a world full of peace and happiness. But that was the “pretty” side of Christianity. I soon found other passages aimed towards the dominance of everything on Earth – where the entire environment was essentially created to serve Man. While I longed for the unconditionally love and peace – as promised through the shiny side, subjugating and dominance over anything only leads to one result – a struggle by the oppressed for equality. Furthermore, I couldn’t jibe all of this with my ideals that Mankind was a part of his/her, an equal partner and part – not a ruler.

And then there was the lip service that was done in the name of Unconditional Love. I saw then – and continue to see now – if an individual expresses any aspect of non-conformity such as, un-natural colors in their hair; piercings through their lips, nose, eyebrows or other personal parts; dressing in a non-conservative manner; or having something other than a typical sexual preference — the amount of anger, hatred, and dismissive attitude presented to those individuals turns my damn stomach. And I do realize that there are those Christians who will point out that people doing such actions as these in the name of Christianity are not following the teachings of Jesus Christ. I still have a problem that this is done – and is not repudiated publicly by other Christians.

Why not Christianity? Because the Natural World is treated as a resource to be used, not as the living, individual entities that comprise it. Because I see a system of Belief that provides lip service about kindness to others, and than perpetuates the opposite towards those that do not conform to their rigid standards of dress, behavior, and preference. To be more blunt – I am a Pagan. I am both a Polytheist and an Animist. I believe in the Gods. I converse with the Gods from time to time. I converse and exist with the Spirits of the Lands. I believe that human beings are a part of their overall EcoSystem and need to learn to coexist in balance with the other inhabitants of that EcoSystem. I believe that people should be allowed to love and live with whom they wish to – regardless of gender, race, creed or any other system of labeling you can dream of.  I am not here to nullify the Christian belief for anyone else but me.  Nor am I here to attempt to convert anyone to my way of belief or thinking. All I ask of anyone else is that same measure of respect.

 

Why Druidry? (Part II)

Back in the first post – Why Paganism? – I did my best to address one of the many questions I get from my non-Pagan friends. My second question, is one that I get from quite a few of my Pagan friends, as well as my non-Pagan ones. Why did I choose a path of Druidry? And why specifically did I choose the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids? As I stated before, the “Elevator Speech” does not quite answer these questions – at least not to a point where I feel I have been able to relate my perspective.

Why Druidry?

A few years back, I always felt that this question was self-evident, particularly in evidence with how I approach my understanding of Paganism. But over the last few months, I have started to realize that many of my friends that ask are not always aware of the personal Path that lead me to the doorstep of Druidry. So when I look for a spot to start my answer, its typically been my experience to start somewhere around the beginning, which transports us back to 1987 in Fort Worth, Texas at Carswell Air Force Base.

I had been conversing with several folks over some of the local Bulletin Board Systems (BBSs), and had been discussing spirituality and religion with quite a few of the folks. It was here that I first encountered a Pagan, which led to meeting more over the BBSs in the local area. Soon I had quite a few to discuss information with, and I began meeting some of these folks for Friday night gatherings at local establishments for long, protracted conversations. I distinctly remember closing down the Pig and Whistle Pub in Fort Worth several times with a group of folks, and the extremely detailed conversations that occurred over a few pints. This was where I encountered my first full-fledged conversations on topics such as reincarnation theory, animism, polytheism, shamanism, symbology and many, many good-spirited debates on comparative religion. There were quite a few very heated discussions that took place, but at the end of the night, we all laughed and hugged one another as we returned to our own homes. There were many times that I felt completely out of my depth in some of the conversations.

However, over time, I became familiar and comfortable with Wicca – and began borrowing books from one of my friends. I read every book cover to cover – and discovered even more concepts and topics that left me scratching my head. Theosophy, the Ordo Templi Orientis, Thelemic mysticism, Kabbalah, Gnosticism….each new concept made my head swim as I learned a little more – but Wicca felt like home. A love of Nature, a connection with the Gods and Goddesses, finding connections with the environment…but there was one nagging constant that I did not enjoy. Ritual.

My upbringing is that of a Catholic, despite the fact that my parents were never all that religious. I know many people who find the Catholic Mass to be a ritual of immense beauty. I am not one of those people. And my dislike for ritual bled over into my time within Wicca. I learned to tolerate the entire aspect of ritual. When rituals were finished, I listened to people gush over how they felt so much more connected to the Gods and their environment after this particular ritual or that particular moment when this Quarter was called or that God or Goddess was invoked. And the entire time, I felt myself thinking how the ritual was not really that necessary – the Gods and Goddesses were always there, the Spirits of the Land (not the term I was using at that time) were easily found – you just had to open yourself to what was there and allow yourself to experience that moment. I constantly volunteered to leave the offerings for the Spirits of the Land after ritual, since it gave me the chance to steal away from everyone else long enough to leave the offering somewhere – and allow myself a moment to open up without interruption. Its really odd, even now – twenty-plus years down the road – I still get strange looks from other Pagans when I note how little use I have for formal ritual.

Carving at a Roman Spring

Carving at a Roman Spring near Kaiserslautern, Germany

In late 1990, I was sent overseas to Germany, and for all intents and purposes completely separated from my coven-mates. And for the first time, I experienced the concept of being completely separated from others where my faith was concerned. I encountered a few Pagan folks during my time at Sembach Air Base, but no one I truly clicked with. Near the base housing I was living at, there were woods – not more than one-hundred and fifty feet from my front door. I walked all throughout those woods for hours on end. I even explored all over my local area, trying to find Pagan shrines that may have still been standing. And in a very strong way, I felt like I was back home. Back in the forested areas I had walked in as a younger “me” – but now even more aware of how I fit into the world around me. I could walk away in silence, and listen to the wind whispering through the trees, hear the call of birds and animals in the quiet woods, and I felt so alive. It was during this time, that I realized that Wicca was not a very good fit for me. The emphasis was on rituals and spell-work, both of which were of little use or value to me. So I stepped over to calling myself a “Pagan” figuring that I would never find a moniker or label or Path that completely fit who I am. And I also began to realize that a label or a name for my Path was no longer important to me. I was (and continue to be) happy with being myself.

Eventually, I would make it back to the United States, separate from the United States military, and live my life within the DFW area. I made another attempt at Wicca with another local DFW tradition, but after my year-and-a-day training period was over – I thanked them for their time and moved on. In time, my own personal studies brought me to the path of Druidry.

Awen

Awen

Druidry, as I have come to understand and relate to the concept, is a way of living one’s life in conjunction with the sacredness of Nature. Through my understanding of Animism (which is literally quite minute by my own admission), the path of Druidry allows me a framework in which I can weave my own conceptualization of the connectedness of everything. The idea that the framework of Druidry is malleable, allows me to mold it to my own personal needs. While there are ritual elements to Druidry, the importance of those elements is left up to me, not placed in front of me as dogma. And the allowance of personal de-emphasis on ritual and re-emphasis on personal experience is one of the reasons I choose the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids (OBOD) over that of Ar nDraíocht Féin (ADF).

So, why Druidry? Because the world around me is alive! I feel the Gods and Goddesses everywhere around me. I am not their focal point – in fact, I would need to achieve their attention through forms of ritual, but I can perceive that they are there. The Spirits of the Land are far easier to work with – in my opinion. Not only are they there, but they are also interested in human kind. Sometimes for the wrong reasons. We – human beings – spend a lot of time trying to destroy the environment that we live in. We try to dominate and use the environment for our own selfish purposes. We sometimes choose not to live in harmony with the Land around us. And it is this point that will lead me down the road to my third – and final – part of this series of posts. I will attempt to answer the question of “Why not Christianity?”….

Thanks for reading – if you got this far!

–Tommy /|\

 

Why Paganism?

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

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

I have been a Pagan since 1987. That’s approximately twenty-six years of my forty-eight year life. I say approximately, because prior to 1987, my own spirituality and my religious life were not that important to me, but many of the primary issues that drive my life were quite similar. My love of Nature has never changed. I enjoy being outdoors and being in the wilder parts of the environment. You know, the places where there are no concrete sidewalks, no prefab restrooms for the public. Places where you step behind a group of trees to take a piss. Where the paths you walk may be nothing more than a deer trail that has been worn through over several seasons.

I’m no hunter. I carry no weapon to point and shoot at the animals I encounter – unless you count the camera I carry. I do carry a walking staff, and a knife. I do respect Nature enough to know I need to protect myself to some measure. But guns are not something I care to carry with me. I did that enough for eight years in the US military. My camera provides enough of the point/click/shoot interface that I need. Besides, I come to the wilder parts of the environment to carry nothing more than experience and memories from my visit. I’m here to be a part of my environment, not find some manner to dominate, control or use it. As a Pagan, I understand that I am merely one aspect of what my environment is. Everything else deserves the same amount of respect.

I do get a lot of questions about my chosen Path in Life – particularly from my non-Pagan friends and acquaintances.

Why Paganism? Could you not find the same measure of solace within the bounds of Christianity?  Why Druidry? What makes Druidry more appropriate than any of the other Pagan beliefs? Is this just your desire to be more weird than anyone else?

…and there’s definitely more than these. But the common thread is simple to understand:  why this particular Path? And to be perfectly honest, this is one of the more difficult questions I tend to be asked. Trying to formulate a standard answer is not the easiest thing in the world to accomplish, at least for me.

Certainly, there are ways to try and answer this question. For instance, there’s the “Elevator Speech” concept that I have heard/read many of my Unitarian Universalist friends espouse. And I do agree that this methodology is an effective one, where you can craft the entire one- to two-minute spiel to a particular audience. But the difficulty that I find, is trying to explain something that relates the entire world around me in a series of connections that I explore so carefully and have spent a lifetime cultivating – into a simple, short message. This particular delivery method may work for others, but it is certainly not something I have managed to balloon-animal into a working format for myself.

On my podcast, Upon a Pagan Path, I ask my guests to talk about their own perspective of Spirituality and how it helps them to relate to the world around them. My manner of approaching this, is to ask them leading questions and then let them work forward from that point to explore the topic on their own. In a way, what I am doing here is quite similar – except that I am essentially interviewing myself, admittedly a tough prospect in its own right.

Why Paganism?

So, let’s start at the most obvious. Why Paganism, indeed. The basic premise behind the over-arching concept of Paganism is a reverence and respect for Nature. I am not going to try and define what Paganism is, but rather will describe what it is to me. The distinction is important, because I am not going to try and describe the experiences of others. I can really only relate what and how Paganism relates to me. It is likely, that I will touch on areas that correlate to others who have had similar experiences, but in the end I am still only describing my own experiences.

I never truly knew what Paganism was when I was growing up. I had a very strong feeling of belonging when I walked through the woods in West Germany with my family on while Volksmarching. My mother and father figured me to be daft in the head when I spoke of the “people living in the trees” and wondered why I was fascinated by the various rings of mushrooms that I would find just off the walking paths. I rarely stayed on the paths – I was always bounding off into the woods, walking parallel to the trails until I encountered some obstacle that would force me back, such as a large stream. When my parents enrolled me in Cub Scouts, I was overjoyed to learn about outings where we would camp in the woods, and get to explore on our own. When my father’s USAF position brought us back to the United States, I was disappointed to find that we would be living in a city. There were certainly wooded areas to play and explore in, but nothing like the deep, quiet woods that I had found in West Germany. I never lost my love of the woods, nor did I lose my understanding and feeling of the forest denizens.

Upon returning to the States, I started to understand a bit more about religious beliefs – mostly thanks to my enrollment into Catholic schools. At every grade level, students were indoctrinated into the Catholic faith with classes, and regular church services, held specifically for the students. In junior high school, I made the mistake of noting that I did not believe in the Christian faith, and found myself face-to-face with the school’s Principal and my parents who had been summoned to explain me. It was then that I realized it was smarter to keep my mouth shut and not state what I did not believe, much less what I did believe. And I honestly had no idea what I believed at that point. Eventually, I stepped into the Southern Baptist faith, mostly due to the urgings of a few friends.

The Southern Baptist faith was an odd one for me. My reverence for Nature was noted to be nothing more than an observance of the beauty of God’s creation. That everything I saw and held as beautiful was placed here for mankind’s usage. Man controlled the environment, and utilized it, as had been laid out according to God’s master plan for the Earth. I never believed a word of that. It never felt right to me. I had realized fairly early on, that we co-existed with all aspects of our environment – that together, we made up all the components necessary to have balance. That damn Libra mindset of mine struck again. And once I found that little chink in the Southern Baptist philosophy, I found more and more…and began to realize that this did not fit into my understanding of the world around me either. So I drifted in my spiritual understanding for another group of years. Eventually, I stumbled into Wicca, and thanks to “Drawing Down the Moon” by Margot Adler – I discovered a world of kindred folk, and a spiritual viewpoint that nearly matched my own.


In writing this, I have found that I may have bitten off more than I can chew at a given moment. Therefore, I will write a second part to this – “Ok, So Why Druidry?” will be the next part. And there may possibly be a third part to this as well. Hopefully, those of you reading this will be intrigued enough to continue along with me when I finish the next post on Monday (tomorrow).

–Tommy /|\