Seeing Where That Came From…

Oh, so you are studying to be a Druid?  When did you decide to join the clergy?

If I had a quid for every single time I have heard this… I’d seriously be a rich man. This after noon, I heard this from an old Air Force roommate that I haven’t spoken to in many moons. So what gives? Where do people get this automatic concept that studying a Path of Druidry is a serious stroll towards the clergy?  ::big sigh::

A while back, I discussed my perspective on being a “Priest”. I get the perspective of the title, the role, and all that jazz. But, its not a title I will use, its not a role I wish to be in (aside from myself as the only member of my “congregation”), so how am I being hooked into this concept through a simple casual conversation with someone?

My first thought…its a basic increment from roleplaying games. In Dungeons and Dragons, the Druid is a subset of the Cleric – essentially a pious, religious individual whose church is “nature”. There’s also the perspective of the Druid in the World of Warcraft games, which I am admittedly a lot less familiar with. But essentially the same perspective seems to apply. But, we’re seriously going to draw a conclusion from RPGs on an individual’s Spiritual Path?  ::nodding head:: Believe it or not, I can see where that may come from.

My second thought did not stray too far from there. Books, particularly Science Fiction and Fantasy, which pull heavily from the same genre perspective of the roleplaying games. There’s a bit more additional aspects to this – plus we can add in the movie/film culture, as well as some of the cringe-worthy TV imagery that has come about. ::nodding head::  I can see where that may come from.

A few days back, I received the wonderful package from the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids which contained my copy of “The Golden Seed: Celebrating 50 Years of OBOD”. The booklet is incredible, and the material within contains some of the most awe-inspiring perspectives on being a member of OBOD. I have not finished the book yet, but each depiction is just as wonderful, awe-inspiring, and thoughtful as the previous ones. Written by real people who have been on a similar Path as my own (owing that each Path is unique to the individual). And as I read these passages, I can see these people sitting around a table at a pub – drinking a beverage of their choice, laughing, and talking in everyday voices and cadence. No stilted, measured, whispered tones of solemnity – just people enjoying the discussion of a shared experience on a shared Spiritual Path that still carries an aura of individuality within its core.

DFW Pagan Pride Day 2013

DFW Pagan Pride Day 2013

Folks, this is what drew me to Paganism in the first place. No airy, lofty tones of one being a “minister to the flock”. Just normal people experiencing the connectivity within their environment in an individual manner – and sharing those experiences as one would tell of the time that coming back from the pub was an adventure. People that are just as comfortable experiencing their spirituality in jeans, t-shirts and tennis shoes as they are in some form of desired ritual clothing. Yet, there’s this distinction of a Druid being some wild-wo/man thrashing through the brambles in the deeper parts of the forest, ministering to the needs of injured sparrows and what-not. Because of some role-playing table-top game said it was so in the “Player’s Handbook” or in the “Deities and DemiGods” book (yes, I play AD&D too – and I usually play a halfling thief)?

Perhaps I am truly blowing a gasket over a non-issue.  That’s quite possibly so. But just once, I would like a non-Pagan – upon discovering that I was a Pagan on a Path of Druidry – to not ask me if I am looking to be a member of the clergy.  ::nodding head::  I can see where I might hope for that to come from….

Being Distracted From Connectivity….

One cloudy, misty afternoon, I decided to take my usual walk through the forest. Walking along the well-traveled dirt path, I eventually came upon a white fawn standing in the middle of the path. The fawn was barely discernible through the swirling mists, which masked the outline of the young deer quite well. “Follow the deer,” I hear a soft voice. I look around, slightly flustered at hearing a voice when I had been walking alone, but there was no one there but myself and the fawn. “Follow the deer,” I hear again. This time I lock eyes with the young deer, which seems to nod at me. Then the deer walks slowly off the Path, and I walk cautiously up to where the fawn had stood. Looking down the small break in the trees, my eyes follow the track of the deer along a slightly worn, very thin path – a “game trail” is what my hunter friends would have called this. “Follow the deer,” came the voice for a third time. I shrugged my shoulders and stepped onto the game trail, the fawn barely visible in my sight.

That’s a dream that I have had on multiple occasions. Sometimes, the time of day or the weather is a little different. On sunny days, the sun is brilliant enough to make seeing the fawn very difficult, and in the mornings, evenings, and night-time, there’s hardly enough light to see very much. Otherwise, the dream stays the same. And the dream always ends when I step off the forest path and on to the game trail.

What does it mean?  I am not really sure. Interpretation of dreams is not really my strength, plus the symbology can mean different things to me at different times. But its in my dream journal. As are many other dreams that I can recall shortly after waking. I learned the hard way to write the dreams down in as much detail as possible as soon as I awake. Almost every dream fades from my memory the longer that I am awake. And reading back over my entries, I can nearly get the same feeling as I had before – just by reading the words. Whether these are trigger-points for remembering what I had heard or seen or touched or smelled during my dream – I can’t really say. Psychology is not something I delve into very deeply. Its one of the sciences that holds very little interest for me. I prefer Sociology to Psychology any day of the week.

What I find more interesting is how words can evoke such sensations or the remembrance of sensations. Or even music for that fact. Bran Cerddorion, who I met for the first time at the OBOD Gulf Coast Gathering earlier this year, wrote a song about attending that event called “Awen Flows Free (Not in Kansas Anymore)“. When I listen to that particular song, all the feelings and emotions that I experienced during that event come welling up inside me all over again. Some may call that evocative magick, others may call it something else – I merely call it fascinating.

Touch is another of those moments. Someone that I know quite well, when we shake hands or hug, I can literally feel a transmission of emotions that pass between the two of us. And with that moment comes the flood of emotional memories that continue to provide the connection between the two of us – even when its been a long period of time between moments of being together. Some call that connectedness, some call it weird or strange – I call that fascinating.

As someone studying a Path of Druidry, I am constantly reminded by the lessons that I have completed, and the lessons I am working on – that finding those connections is a part of everyday living. And that feeling those connections is a part of everyday living. And that cultivating those connections is a part of everyday living. And that all that connectivity connects me to others – some of whom I have never met before, and may likely never met ever. And some of those people that I have distant connectivity to may dislike me simply because I do not follow their path of belief. Or because I support the concept of loving who you love. Or because I don’t dress the way that they do. Or I don’t talk the way that they do. Or because I simply live in a geographic location that they have developed some degree of anger or hatred towards. Whatever the case may be, somewhere along the line, there’s a connection between the two of us. No matter how thin or frail that thread of connectivity may be, its there whether they want to agree or not. Whether they like it or not. Whether I want to like it or not.

A particular quote that is often attributed to the Dkhw’Duw’Absh Chief Seattle goes like this:

Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.

Whether he truly said it or not, does not matter to me. I am not interested in such controversies. I am more interested in what meaning the statement has behind it. For me, this statement is a quintessential understanding of the connections that I am reminded of in my Druidry lessons. We can disagree with what others may say, or the actions that they commit to – but we cannot deny the connections that bind us together within the web. As one of my favorite characters on the Babylon 5 television show states:

In here you cannot hide from yourself. Everything out there has only one purpose. To distract ourselves from what is truly important.

At that time, G’kar was in solitary confinement in a jail cell. The Chief of Security had commented that he (G’kar) seemed to be more at peace within the jail cell than he was out in the general populace of the Babylon 5 station. For me, this quote is the perfect carriage in pointing out the meaningless nature of politics. Politics is only a manner of diving ourselves, allowing us to deny the connections between one another – particularly where we have differences of opinion in how governance is applied to a societal framework that we have chosen to live within. Indeed, at times it certainly seems that politics has only one goal – to distract ourselves from what is truly important… I would honestly rather continue to be aware of the connections that we seem to deny through politics. I would rather live in a world where I can see and experience that connectivity on a daily basis…and so I do. Or at least, I try my best to do so…

Eating Dirty Laundry….

Life sometimes gets wild, wooly, and crazy. When it happens, it can feel a lot like a million paper-cuts happening over and over again before the bandaids arrive. Or at least that was the description that my High School English teacher once told me during my Junior year. I like the descriptive, but it really does not seem to fit – at least not lately.

Over the course of the last six months, I have had to deal with the sudden passing of my father – just a short while after the passing of my mother. That was enough to set my world into a small tilt-a-whirl mode. But to be honest, it wasn’t anything that I couldn’t deal with. Added to that, was the craziness of the politics and news of the day.

I’m not going to go into too much detail of those events, because thats not where I am headed with this. But essentially, I watched as the media helped to document the major split within the politics of the United States. Right-wing versus Left-wing. Republican versus Democrat. Conservative versus Liberal. Whatever descriptive you want to give it. However, the media plays this up as if its the ultimate and primary aspect of what defines America. I would submit that this is utter bullshit, designed to drive ratings on “news” channels that rarely report anything resembling the news. After all, sensationalism sells. Or as is put more scrupulously by Don Henley:

We can do the Innuendo
We can dance and sing
When it’s said and done
We haven’t told you a thing
We all know that Crap is King
Give us dirty laundry

–Don Henley, “Dirty Laundry”

My experience of dealing with everyday people, that are not so consumed with defining people by their politics, is that they are more interested in who you are and how they can help (if needed). However, the sad thing is that in the realm of the news, the people who shout the loudest get heard the most. That’s why people like Rush Limbaugh, Randi Rhodes, Sean Hannity, Alan Colmes, and Alex Jones can spout the outrageous comments that they make. They have radio and television to help pump up the volume for their statements. The more outrageous things that they say, the more airtime it gets with the media. Just look at Donald Trump, as another example. Currently leading the Republican nomination polls, I’m not sure that anyone could seriously consider him a viable candidate for the Presidency. And yet, his outrageous statements are like red meat to the more rabid elements of the Conservative political party.

And seriously, why not? It does not take a lot to connect the points. After eight years of President Obama, most right-wing Conservatives are wanting to shake up the so-called “status quo”. Their current leadership has failed to thwart the “Muslim in Chief” (what a stupid descriptive too) in any major manner. Thus, they are no disillusioned with their leadership and want something new, different, and far more radical. This is why Ted Cruz got to where he is. But are the people that are responding to Trump and Cruz the majority of the Republican base? I doubt it.

In a discussion thread on Facebook, I noted that neither the Republican or Democratic nomination processes are really serious at this point. I only wonder how long it will be before both parties get serious.  After the first debate?  Maybe. After the second debate?  More than likely. Until then, we are really working off of the point of entertainment. Who is going to say something outrageous?  How is everyone else going to respond to it?  How many rating points can the network get for the dead squirrel on Trump’s head?  Yeah.  Wake me when things actually get serious….

…and as a final thought, what does this say about us here in America? How shallow do we have to be to allow stuff like this to continue to lead the headlines?  After all, as long as we keep clicking on the links to the websites, tuning into the TV channels – they will continue to provide us with our dirty laundry. Yeah. Kick us when we’re up. Kick us when we’re down. Kick us all around…

Baseball Memories, My Father, and Uncle John’s Band…

Its the mid-point of baseball season here in the United States. Sadly, my beloved Cincinnati Reds look like shtako, so the season is not nearly as fun for me. Plus, the Reds are about to start trading some of their players, which means that they are waving the white flag on this season (as they should). As a fan that has endured one of the worst seasons in Reds’ history (1982), as well as a World Series (1991), and several strong runs at the playoffs – I hate seeing them play this bad. I still remain a loyal fan though…

I got my love for the Cincinnati Reds through my father. He was a fan of the team when he was growing up in Kentucky. He listened to the games on the radio, especially since there was no MLB-TV option on DirecTV. But it was the one thing we understood together. We talked baseball quite a bit. He was very interested in my Baseball database (I have been working on that for close to fourteen years now), and we would talk quite a bit about the Reds’ players from the 1950s. He was a stronger Dallas Cowboys fan, and I have a very vague, fleeting interest in anything American Football. So there was very little to talk about during the winter months. But every Spring, we would talk about how we thought the Reds might do. Admittedly, two player strikes were enough to kill my father’s everyday interest in the game of baseball – but he still peeked in from time to time.

My father passed away in mid-March of this year. Spring Training had only started at that point – and we had not talked much about the coming season. This is my first season without him around to talk with. My boss and a few coworkers are Texas Rangers fans, but that’s American League play. I prefer the National League play, where the pitcher has to hit. I am pretty much a purist in that fashion. But talking with them is not the same as talking with my father. They talk very fan-based perspectives – about how the Rangers are strong enough to win the World Series (they aren’t). How the Rangers are going to make a move to get Cole Hamels from the Phillies (they won’t). And when I interject with a Reds fan’s perspective – they look at me like I am crazy. Why can I not support the Rangers? After all, I live in the metro-mess where they play. These days, I tend to put my headphones on, tune them out, and work. After all, that’s what they pay me to do when I am there.

But all of this is about more than just baseball. Baseball is the connective tissue that formed a bond between myself and my father. I played the game as a child. I was not the greatest in the world at it. I played good defense in the outfield. I could play catcher when necessary. I couldn’t play the infield. I couldn’t pitch. And I was a terrible hitter. But I was good at getting hit by the baseball when I was batting. My first year in American Legion baseball, I was hit twenty-two times…in twelve games. I would dig into the batter’s box as close as I could to the plate, and I would never move. if I got hit by the pitch, I went to first. If I didn’t get hit by the ball, it was a pretty good chance that I didn’t hit the ball. It was a one-way relationship of abuse there between me and the baseball. My father knew I wasn’t that good, but he came to all my games. He rooted me on. To be honest, I was a far better soccer (I call it football) player than I ever was a baseball player.

My father didn’t understand or care about soccer. It was “a game for Europeans” he told me once. I always wondered why he would say that, when soccer is played in nearly every single country in the world. Where baseball brought us together, soccer set us apart. As did other things. Politics – he was a staunch Conservative, where I was always an Independent, non-affiliated individual with a strong streak of liberalism. He was career Air Force, where I had utilized the Air Force to learn a trade/skill-set in Information Technology – which I have leveraged into a fairly decent patch-work career in the business industries. He was not religious, where I have steadily grown in my own personal Path within Paganism. He was very cautious in his processes – I learned to be cautious to a similar degree by being reckless in my life choices early in life. In many ways, we couldn’t be more different if we tried. But we still had baseball…

When I found that my father had died, my sister was in New Orleans, calling me to inform me of his death. Oddly enough, I was on the other side of Lake Pontchartrain in Mandeville, Louisiana attending the very first OBOD Gulf Coast Gathering. After I found out, I spent a good portion of that afternoon in a semi state of shock. But I managed to set that in the back of my mind until I made it home. Over the next three months, I spent time going through the house – removing things that I wanted to keep. My mind was on taking care of what needed to be taken care of. I was the child that interred both of my parents there in the cemetery in Hot Spring Village. In those three months, I think I cried once. When I left the house my parents had built for their retirement for the last time. And up until earlier this week, I had never realized that I’ve not mourned the loss of either my father or mother (my mother passed away six months before my father, but her illness had us watch her die moment by moment over three-and-a-half years). And its been the mid-point of the baseball season, where I normally would spend a good hour-plus on the phone with my father talking about baseball trade possibilities, and how awful the Reds were this year as compared to the last – this is where I have started to realize that my father is not there on the other end of that phone.

I am sure that there will be many, many times where I try and pick up the phone to call him to talk, and realize just after I press the contact that holds his name and number, the truth of the moment. I turn 50 in nearly 90 days. My personal health could definitely be far better than it is. And I feel every moment as mortal as I know myself to be. And I wonder – sometimes aloud – how much more time I have on this mortal coil? And I realize that its not something that matters. However much time I have, is however much time I have. How I live those years out is my choice. I can wallow in the mire of a mindset set on the idea that I am getting old. Or I can settle on a mindset that says that there is so much more to be done – what challenge is next around the corner?

My father is gone – all I have are my memories of him — good and bad. And I do need to take the time to mourn his passing. I also need to take the time to remember that this is a changing moment in my life as well. There is a time to press forward. There is also a time to stop, rest, and remember. My time of resting and remembering is here. Soon, I will be moving forward again…with whatever happens. And that moment of soon is coming far quicker than I may realize. There is, after all, Life to be lived, challenges to be accepted, and yes — work to be done. Or as the Grateful Dead remind me in “Uncle John’s Band”:

It’s the same story the crow told me
It’s the only one he know –
like the morning sun you come
and like the wind you go
Ain’t no time to hate,
barely time to wait
Wo-oah, what I want to know,
where does the time go?

Swinging for the Fences

The last two days have been complete days of suck. Every time I try to accomplish one thing, something else arrives to lay waste to those plans. And once I get life back on an even keel, I get bumped right back off. Its frustrating to the highest degree. After a while today (Saturday), I remembered — when life gives you lemons, order Chinese takeout. Or something like that.

This hasn’t been a new phenomenon for me.  Lately all my weekends have been like this. It is directly attributed to my current work schedule which is four days on, and three days off. Or in more appropriate terms – Monday through Thursday. Each of the days is ten hours, which for me – with a nearly hour long drive both ways – makes my days clock in at nearly twelve total hours. By Thursday, I am completely wiped out. This past Friday, I slept through the latter part of the afternoon and the early part of the evening….at my keyboard. That’s not something I do often. Thankfully, this schedule ends at the end of the month, and I can return to something that I remotely remember as a routine.

We all do our best to try and live lives as wrapped in magick and wonder as we possibly can. But what happens when the mundane world comes back and brushes you off the plate with a chin-high fastball? Where and how can one cope with that? Well, in baseball, you have two choices: you can charge the mound and start a fight, or you can brush yourself off, get back up to the plate, and smack the next pitch over the fence. It really depends on your perspective.

This year, I have seen my share of high and tight pitches from life. In March, during my time at East Coast Gathering, I found out that my father had passed away earlier in the week. My mother had passed six months prior after a lengthy illness. I just did not expect my father to pass that quickly behind her. From that point on, I have been struggling to regain my balance. Work has flooded me with more and more data requests, as my College’s President moves us into a data-centric environment. The shift to these longer hours during the summer months has left me wondering where my focus should be or should not be. In short, its like I have had a brush-back pitch thrown at my head every time I come up to bat.

So, what to do about it? Step one was a realization that it may be time to move closer to work. That will put me even further north from a lot of the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex. However, given the fact that I rarely travel below the northern edge of I-635 (the loop as it is sometimes known), this may not be a bad thing. Plus, I am beginning to realize that I can actually afford a place with some land, which I would dearly love. So there’s plenty of discussion to be had there, as well as some house hunting. Interestingly enough, I have found a monolithic dome on 5 acres of land…its an interesting thought to say the least.

Step two has been a bit more of an interesting thing. I am semi-organized. I have a calendar system that I use to put things in…and then I rarely consult it. This means that I need to integrate my tools a bit more into my daily routines. To that end, I am starting to use my iPad and iPhone a little more than I used to. Strange for a Pagan to be leaning more towards technology to get things organized, bit its there. I am also learning a bit more about over-extending myself on things as well. Its a harsh lesson to learn, but its definitely one that I am going through.

The last step will be the easiest by far. Providing time for me to be focused on who I am. My meditations, getting back to my walks, continuing my daily morning and evening greetings and farewells for the sun, maintaining the food and water for the birds and the squirrels in the backyard, and doing my daily journal entries. I have already discovered the best times for these all to take place, and have made calendar entries to block off these time frames. But with all that comes the most difficult part of this — staying on track. I know that there are going to be times that I don’t make this work properly. I just need to not beat myself up over those moments – and get back up again. I need to set my focus, and wacth the pitch to the bat, and swing for the fences….

Why Crow?? An Attempted Explanation of Sorts…

My Backyard Stone CircleThis morning, I got up – went downstairs and made a cup of coffee. Then I stood there in the kitchen, my cup in my hands, and looked out the kitchen window at my backyard. In the darkness, I could barely make out my little stone circle with my Kokopelli statue in the center of it. Everything looked quiet. What a strange way to phrase the statement, but that’s the impression I had as I watched the light slowly grow in intensity as the Sun rose – fulfilling its promise from the evening before when it dipped below the horizon in the west. The colors of the sky started with mellow, almost muted tones, as the sun started its climb into the sky. Those tones got harsher and brighter with each passing moment, as the sun’s intensity grew. I closed my eyes for a moment, and silently thanked the sun for its return.

If you have read this blog with any regularity, you recognize this as my morning ritual. My greeting of the sun and the day. Its a simple process, and to be completely honest, its not always the same. Sometimes, I stand outside. Sometimes, the sky is too cloudy to see the sun. Sometimes, I oversleep and get up long after the sun has risen over the horizon. Regardless, I still take a few moments in the morning to look out at my backyard and see how the day is going to be striped – to steal an American Football analogy.

I’m not a person who really enjoys staid rituals. I’m a bit more improvisational in those terms. Why?  Because each moment we have is unique. A few moments ago, is not now nor will it be a few moments from now. It may have similarities, but its not the exact same moment. Now, before the folks that really get into practiced, rehearsed, very formal ritual processes freak out – I am not advocating a removal of all that in favor of improvisational ritual. I am merely pointing out that this is what works for me. I am not the type of person to make an empirical statement that everyone should do things exactly as I say. In fact, I do believe that even within my own Spirituality, there is a place for formalized ritual. Just not in my daily, morning practice.

Which brings me to where my thought is (did ya’ll enjoy that short ride to here?) this morning. It revolves around a simple question that another Pagan once asked me:  “Why Crow?”

Its a fair question. My immediate DNA heritage is primarily European/Germanic. Should those Gods not call to me? Why am I not drawn to Teutonic or even Celtic Gods and mythology? Looking through my family tree, there is an instance of one First Nations (I like that term better than “Indian” or “Native American”) ancestor, but no more than that. So why a First Nations God??

Well, first off, I don’t believe we get to pick and choose which God or Goddess will speak to us directly. We can definitely frame our worship and our rituals around a specific God or Goddess or even an entire mythos, but when we are approached, chosen and claimed by a specific God or Goddess — its not that simple. My relationship with Crow came in a round-about manner. I was wanting to work with a Trickster God. Loki was never a strong pull for me. However, Coyote provided a lot of qualities that I was wanting to explore. A semi-serious side, along with a playful aspect as well. I formed my meditations around Coyote. I learned to not take myself so seriously. I learned how to play within my Spirituality. And I eventually encountered Crow. I wasn’t seeking out Crow. I was sought out by Crow. I didn’t get to choose.

Second, and perhaps far more important for me, is that I have no idea who and what I may have been in a previous incarnation. I hear the moans and groans of people not wanting me to bring reincarnation theory into the conversation, as well as those who are muttering about cultural misappropriation under their breaths. I get the point of both aspects, but I don’t agree. Furthermore, I’m not really going to debate either perspective. That’s not my point nor would it ever be. Why a First Nations God? To be perfectly frank – I have no way to explain it to you. However, my ritual focus resembles nothing of a First Nations ceremony. In this incarnation, I am a white, European-based male. I can only approach my spirituality from what calls to me. Not from where my DNA comes from.

Again, I am not looking to debate the “right” or “wrong” of Crow choosing me. If you are looking for a debate on cultural appropriation or something along those lines – you’ve reached the wrong blog post. But this is my attempted explanation of why this particular mythos seems to call to me. And as a way of a third explanation, perhaps its because of where I live. This particular geographic area is very well connected with First Nations Gods and Goddesses. But in the end, whatever the reasoning does not matter all that much to me. And to be perfectly frank, I gave up trying to figure out whether any of my theories of “why” are right or wrong quite a while back. Whatever label you may want to put on it…go ahead. In the end, its what is right for me at this unique moment in time…for whatever reason. I gave up on reasoning why a long time ago….

I was THAT Pagan Before…

Mornings are a special time for me. Watching the sun peek over the horizon, and then softly illuminate the world around me, its just a magnificent scene to behold. Plus, there’s the feeling of the sun’s rays as the warmth touches your skin – a concept I have heard termed as “sun-kissed”. For me, its just a moment of bliss that I cannot explain in words, but “sun-kissed” certainly makes the point seem more romantic.

My last post was an odd little piece for me – discussing my moral compass is not something that I do often. However, it certainly got a lot of views, and over on Facebook it got quite a few likes. So I am guessing that a lot of people seemed to like what I was trying to get across. Or at least I hope they managed to understand what I was trying to get across. Some of the secondary comments on Facebook tended to focus on the manner in which my friend was juxtaposing his beliefs against mine. I understand where they may have been going with that, but to be honest, it was not where I was trying to take my conversation with him. A lot of other folks have mentioned that I should have argued more vigorously with him over the point. After all, by “giving up” on the “debate” I was essentially allowing him to “win the point.” Which brings me around to where I am headed with this particular blog post.

Professing, Preaching and Chaos – the Vortex

One of the things I cherish about most of the Pagan community is a lack of desire to proselytize or profess one’s faith to others. Very rarely, have I encountered a Pagan with the need to tell everyone within earshot about their faith – and how all of mankind can benefit from it. There is nothing that is more of a “turn-off” for me than when I see/hear a Pagan doing this. And there’s a few reasons behind that….

If only the past was as easy to pull together....

If only the past was as easy to pull together….

In my teen-aged years, I searched from Christian faith to Christian faith before settling into the Southern Baptist realm. The first worship days I ever attended, I sat up in the front — only to experience the heavy duty turbulence that comes from a preacher that shouts his message of fire, brimstone and hell-fire. That drove me to the back pews, where I found all the other folk that were my age. Here, I found young folks that would occasionally wave their hands in the air and hollar out “hallelujah” in much the same vein as some of the older church members who sat much further up. After church services were over, I would hang out with a few of these folks, where they would do the very things that the preacher had mentioned were to be avoided. But when other Christian kids from other churches were around, the prim and proper behavior was placed back onto their faces – and they would loudly profess how much more Christian they were than the other kids from the other churches. Honestly, the last place I ever wanted to be was in a church where it was a contest to see who could out-Godly the other kids.

When I became a Pagan, I found Pagans that did much the same thing. Pretending a possession by a God and spouting out orders and such nonsense to the rest of the folks there. I was told by this individual that I needed to “protect and clean the forested area near Kindsbach, Germany. Quite an interesting feat – if I had not just taken this individual up to that same area, where he observed me picking up trash along the forested trail there. While his “possession” may have been authentic, it was far too convenient and timely for me to really believe he was doing nothing more than to try and pull me into his group under his “control”. Even then, some twenty years ago, I had spent enough time working with Spirits of the Land to know that this was typically not the way one made communication with them or even with the Gods. Every event that we both attended jointly, he spent time with anyone who would take the time to listen, in order to try and sway them to his Path. It was, for me, a nauseating sight to behold.

But, perhaps the strongest example of a pushy, proselytizing Pagan that I can provide comes from one of the oddest places:  myself. That’s right.  I was THAT Pagan in my earliest of footsteps on a Pagan Path. Not to make excuses, but I really had very little guidance when I stumbled upon Wicca. And what guidance I initially was given was Margot Adler’s “Drawing Down the Moon“, Starhawk’s “The Spiral Dance“, and Raymond Buckland’s “The Tree: The Complete Book of Saxon Witchcraft” — along with the single statement:  “read”. I was working at the Data Processing Center at the Air Force base, and with plenty of downtime on the weekend – I was reading. The subject matter was something no one in my duty section had any knowledge of – and the vast majority of them equated it with Satanism. Added on top of that, it was the height of the late 1980s “Satanic Panic” here in the United States. I found something that fit very well into my own personal world view, and I embraced the concepts and ideas within the books. I bristled at the notion that I was “filling my head with crap” and took every opportunity to voice my disagreement along with knowledge of just “why” from the books I was reading. I took the offense on some of the debates and arguments, by purposefully opening up discussions that I knew would lead to long, protracted arguments. All of which created a very chaotic and antagonistic environment – and I reveled in it. In a manner of speaking, I was at the center of the vortex I was creating – and yes, there is a certain energy that goes with situations like this. Very seductive, very destructive. Looking back, I can see that I was not a very pleasant person to be around when these situations were being orchestrated.

Calming the Winds of Chaos

Perhaps the best thing that could have happened to me was being transferred overseas. I left behind people that I dealt with on a daily basis – people that I found myself in contextual combat over personal spirituality. I wound up in another Pagan community that was filled with strife, anger, and a lot of misunderstanding. As an outsider, I found myself on the outside of the debates. And when I did manage to find a group to integrate with, I found an individual playing the part of leader for personal power (see second paragraph in previous section). In short (no height jokes here!), I do believe that the Gods placed me in this spot so that I could see the Path I had set myself on. Arguing contextual semantics to try and prove that one was holier than another. That my Pagan path was far more pure than anyone else’s. That everyone should hang on my every word. I watched all of that with a very close, up-front seat. I even partook in some of the political aspects of the group and managed to work my way into the Vice Director’s role of the local Pagan group. And when I was enmeshed in this place, I realized that it wasn’t where I needed to be. It did not happen overnight, but over the course of a single year. I watched as experienced Pagans with years of being within a Pagan community came to our gatherings, and left shortly after. I watched new Pagans – people interested in Paganism but had never had a group of others to question and talk with their Spirituality – come to the same gatherings and be easily swept up into the whirlwind of the personalities there. And I saw these same personalities abuse that trust for favors that should never be utilized in the manner in which they were. And I knew I did not want to be that way.

I was there in Germany for three years. The first year, I worked my way into the whirlwind. The second year, I watched what went on from the inside, saw the Pagan versus Pagan arguments and debates that mirrored the same arguments and debates I had had with my Christian co-workers from the duty station previous to this one. I listened to the ramped up rhetoric, heard the rhetoric turn to personal insults, felt the battle lines being drawn, and was appalled to see others step to one side or another of that line. And yes, I felt that pull as well – the raw, sensual energy that the chaotic vortex offered.

The last year I was there, I spent nearly every single day in the woods just south of Kindsbach. The woods are filled with walking trails that the locals have stamped down in their numerous treks through the trees. I spent a lot of time walking, stopping, listening to the wind in the trees… A few times, I communed with the Spirits of these woods – when they offered such solace to me. And I slowly learned how powerful peace and quiet could be as well.

Yes, I was THAT kind of Pagan. I’m not any longer. I stopped seeking out arguments and debates. I will hold a conversation – until it gets contentious. Then I back off and let things go. Particularly when there is nothing that really can be gained from the conversation. I want to discuss and explore for knowledge – not to prove that my religion has more power or is more correct than yours. But at one time…I was THAT Pagan…