I Learn Therefore I Am….Connected

Druidry is a lot of things to me. It is a framework upon which my daily devotional practice works from. And a lot of people can grok the concept of the Spiritual practices held within one’s Druidry; however, there is more to Druidry than just this for me. There is a continually desire to educate myself – on topics I already know something about, as well as those I know next to nothing, aside from a name. The act of studying, assimilating knowledge, looking for new techniques to try – all of that is a part of my Druidry as well. There is also the ceremonial side of life as well, and I do not mean just rituals. There are certain routines I follow in my day – rituals in their own right, but not necessarily spiritual. All three are important to me, but study and the growth of knowledge are probably the most important to me.

The Druid Prayer has a statement that resonates deeply with me:

Grant, O Great Spirit/Goddess/God/Holy Ones, Thy Protection;
And in protection, strength;
And in strength, understanding;
And in understanding, knowledge;
And in knowledge, the knowledge of justice;
And in the knowledge of justice, the love of it;
And in that love, the love of all existences;
And in the love of all existences,
 the love of Great Spirit/Goddess/God/Holy Ones/the Earth our mother, and all goodness.

Knowledge for me is a form of freedom. I can undertake any aspect of information that I desire, and dive as deeply as I wish into it. This only is the reason that my bookshelves are filled with works on World History and lexiconic tomes on a wide variety of programming languages. I am completely intrigued by how history has unfolded, and some of the variables surrounding various events that have shaped our wider society. As for the programming languages, I am lucky to be employed in a position that allows me to utilize my passion for logic puzzles with fashioning programming code to provide information that is utilized in critical decision-making within the college I work for. My desire to assist others plays a key factor in the support function that I am in.

In this manner, my everyday practice of key parts of my Druidry cross into my mundane life in ways I never thought it would. In fact, I used to compartmentalize my life — I had one side of me that was work-related. The other side of me was focused on my Spirituality. For the first three years that I worked on my Bardic Grade material, I lived this peculiar life, and I struggled mightily through all of it. I never realized that in order to get things to “gel” for me in my lessons, I needed to allow both sides of my life to intermingle and essentially “inform” one another.

The catalyst in getting to this point came at the first Gulf Coast Gathering, where the OBOD Tutor Coordinator attended. I lamented that I was four-plus years into my studies and struggling throughout it. She noted that you could set your studies into a small, mental box where the environment was essentially sterile and confined. However, it would be more helpful to embrace the studies and find ways to correlate what one was learning into your own life in other ways. In that way, the material had a better hope of coming to life. While I wrote this down, I never really considered it until nearly a year later when I happened across my notes in a spare notebook I was transcribing to parts of other journals and notebooks. I decided to give this a try since I had still been struggling with my studies.

The change did not happen over-night. It took a particularly difficult data study at work for me to realize how my Bardic studies could be helpful in looking for a creative way to work through the issue at hand. Once I opened that doorway, learning has become a different experience for me, and my work processes have become more “fun” like solving logic puzzles than trying to just get a data-set that might look “normal” to the requester.

So all of this really begs a larger question – what is like to be a Druid? And while I could answer the similar question of “What is it like to be  Pagan?“, at this time I don’t really have the adequate words to describe what it is like to be a Druid. I feel like I might be likely to just point and go “ugh” as a response, hoping someone can grok what I am getting at. However, I can say that my Druidry is about interconnectedness and the wider implications of inter-relations. I see similar points of cause and effect within World History. How an assassination of an Arch-Duke started a chain of events (through connected treaties of mutual defense) that eventually led to the event we call World War I. And how the surrender terms of World War I led to a near continuation of the same conflict as a part of World War II – though there are a lot more complicating factors to all of that. But the threads between the two are there; however faint one may perceive those threads to be (or not).

In my mundane job, I utilize SQL queries to connect databases together to pull related information into a singular data-set. That synthesis of information happens because I find a faint connection between the tables, and reinforce that within the code by joining the tables together. That inter-related aspect, for me, is a key part of my Druidry. Finding the threads that bring us all together, connect us with our environment – reminding us that our environment does not survive, exist, thrive or decline independent of us. Nor do we survive, exist, thrive or decline without some aspect of our environment being a part of that process. Sadly, it is difficult to get most modern Christians to understand this – since they see the world and our environment as a resource that was placed here for human kind’s use. And as this world is merely a temporary one according to their translated holy writ, there really is no need to be a good steward or custodian of a place that is just a weigh-station within their existence. After all, the true final place that matters is Heaven. But I digress. Sort of. There is interconnectedness in all of that and the state that our environment is in now.

I learn, therefore I am. Maybe. But I enjoy learning because I have a love for knowledge. I have an innate curiosity of how things are connected to one another. I learn and understand the world around me as I look through this lens. And for me, that is part of what it is like to be a Druid. But there is so much more of Druidry that I just cannot explain adequately in words. Bardic circles around the campfire. The people that you connect with – Druids, Pagans, and all the others I just do not have the time to describe here. Cause and Effect observations. The beauty of the landscapes. The rituals, both spiritual and mundane, that we have. Our innate differences. I do not really have the words to explain all of that because my experience is more in terms of emotions. And if only I could put the emotions behind the hugs I have gotten from all those experiences into words – I would be one very expressive author. For the time being, I will just manage a post like this one. However, I will keep trying to write those emotions into some set of words because there has to be some thread that will get me there. Challenge accepted. 🙂

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Going Beyond

Being a teacher can be a tough and somewhat thankless job. For nearly three years, I was an adjunct professor at the community college, where I now work in the administration for. I both dreaded and enjoyed teaching students about information systems and the uses these seemingly perplexing machines have in our society today. I enjoyed explaining how data-driven queries and algorithms actually have a major effect on people’s lives, even when they did not really comprehend that such processes were being placed in how their lives were being lived. However, I also dreaded being in the classroom because I always had a fear that a student might actually be able to showcase their knowledge having gone further than my own. Looking back, I had such a silly notion in that area.

A few weeks ago, the silliness of that notion was on display in the newest Star Wars film. During the dialogue between Yoda and Luke at the Jedi Temple, Luke laments that he cannot be what Rey needs, and Yoda responds:

…we are what they grow beyond. That is the true burden of all masters. –Yoda

My fears were truly unfounded. Should a student find a mastery of the topic that went beyond where I was, it should be a joyful moment. I have poured all of my knowledge and wisdom (a truly debatable term for another time) into my student, in the hopes that they will grow beyond the point that I have managed to reach. The goal is not my vanity and ego as being the font of be-all, end-all knowledge. Because, in all honesty, I continue to grow my own mastery and understanding of the knowledge as I, myself, progress in this existence.

In a manner of speaking, a teacher is considered to also be a leader. The expertise and mastery of an area of knowledge, as well as their wisdom (there’s that word again), places a teacher in a position of potentially leading others. There’s a similar area of responsibility in the hands of the follower, who provides a connection to that leader by allowing that architecture to be placed in the individual (or individuals in the case of larger groups with more than one individual placed in a role of leadership). That dual-feed of the teacher providing information, knowledge, and wisdom, and a student placing their trust and faith in an individual or individuals to lead them correctly can be a very wonderful relationship with the right degree of trust and responsibility coming from both ends of it. To quote from many places, it truly is a manner of perfect love and perfect trust. Too much or too little from either side, and it can be a corrosive and/or abusive relationship (another deer trod to travel down at some other point).

What about flawed individuals? People who have done bad or unsavory things when they were in these positions of teaching or leadership? We need to toss everything they have taught us and start fresh with a better perspective, right? Or we need to abandon that particular Path of knowledge because we placed a leader into a position of being far more than what we should have. Our reasoning for following them is flawed; therefore, everything we learned is flawed, right?

I would say that is not necessarily the case. We do need to stop, look back, and re-evaluate everything. But that is by taking everything one piece at a time, determining what value that bit of knowledge has to us, and then making a decision to keep it, alter it to our needs, or pitch it all together. Plus, I have one another thing to consider: every single one of us is flawed in one manner or another. A significant majority of us has done something wide of the mark in our past to one degree or another. However, before we all start feeling guilty about all the stuff we did when we were teenagers or in our early twenties, let’s consider one other side of Yoda’s statement to Luke in that same scene:

Heeded my words not, did you? Pass on what you have learned. Strength, mastery. But weakness, folly, failure also. Yes, failure most of all. The greatest teacher, failure is. –Yoda

We have all met failure to one degree or another. We all have weaknesses (one of mine just happens to be Bushmills whiskey). And I would daresay that we have all done wrong by someone or many someones at one time or another. The true measure of these incidents in our lives is not what we did, but rather if we have grown beyond those transgressions.

I am a firm believer in second chances. I am also a firm believer that knowledge can grow and become stronger from places where most others would see rot and decay. Time, patience, and so many other elements are important factors to add. Or as I am fond of saying, x and y are important variables, but their strength in the overall argument can dissipate or grow due to the variance of the z-variable (typically referred to as “time”).

As we, Pagans, continue to grow our knowledge and our various traditions, we stand on the shoulders of giants, as Damh the Bard notes in his song “On the Shoulders of Giants”:

So by peace and love we stand,
Heart to heart and hand in hand,
On the shoulders of giants we stand.

We stand on the shoulders of our Elders, our teachers, our leaders – growing our traditions for the coming generations so that our shoulders they will also stand upon – a mighty foundation. Over time, our foundations can wear down, from the equalizer of time, as well as other factors. But even that weathered stone has merit. It may not look as pretty and polished as it did in a time long past, but it is still there. Over time, we may found out that our Elders, teachers, and leaders have done things in their lives that we find to be unsavory or even difficult to comprehend. None of that nullifies the knowledge that was brought to us. Because it is not the individual that provides the legacy, but the knowledge itself. A founding member of a tradition can be found to have done unspeakable, unimaginable things in their lives. None of those actions can nullify the beauty, wisdom, knowledge, compassion, loving attitude, and joyful care that the Priests (men and women – I believe Priest to be a gender-neutral term) in that same tradition have today and what the future Priests will bring as they receive their ordination. I just cannot condemn or color what a tradition is because of the actions of one individual…even a founding member.

As for me, I have my own transgressions in my past that haunt me. No matter how much I want to wipe those away with notations of second chances or excuses, I will live with those for the rest of my life – however long that may be. For those that know what those are, I can only hope that they see the change in who I am today versus that person I was previously. For those that I wronged, and have been able to apologize to, I can only hope that they have forgiven me and accepted those apologies. For those that I cannot make apologies to, for whatever reason, I can only continue to offer my apologies when I pray. And yes, even Pagans pray. And while those transgressions do paint a tone to who I am today; for any future students I have, any followers who may provide me with the reins of some form of leadership — those failures helped me to learn and try to be a better teacher and leader. And through those experiences, as I continue to move further along this nearly thirty-five years on a Pagan Path, I hope that I become the Elder that the Gods have aimed me towards being. After all, I am fallible — like anyone else.

I am “Woke” – Just Not in the Way You Might Assume

Early in 2017, I started hearing a concept that I had not heard since the first release of the movie “The Matrix” — being ‘woke’. Back in 1999, it referred to the status of human beings like the main character Neo, who had been removed from their connection to the Matrix environment created by the machines, and were now aware of the true reality of the Earth and human beings. However, the term was not being used in that context, and seemingly meant something different. Being curious about it, I decided to try and find a definition of what this new terminology might mean. Eventually, I found that it applied to some of the aspects of the Black Lives Matter movement, but had been branching into other areas from there. A quick check of Urban Dictionary found a handful of descriptives:

  • A state of perceived intellectual superiority one gains by reading The Huffington Post.
  • Although an incorrect tense of awake, a reference to how people should be aware of current affairs.
  • Knowing what is going on in the community.
  • Being completely deranged, hysterical and seeing racism/oppression in virtually everything.
  • Being aware of the social. and political environments regarding all demographics and socio-economic standings.

…and the list goes on and on. Utilizing Urban Dictionary’s perspectives, being “woke” aims towards political and socio-economic statuses, being aware of how various aspects of society press against a perceived state of equality for all.

Now, most folks know, I have my own political stance in life. It bleeds through in everything I do – blogging, talking, working, reading – because it is part of who I am and what I believe. I hold no allegiance to either of the major parties within the United States. Rather, I see validity on both sides of that equation, as well as what I consider to be idiocy from both sides as well. Thus, I hold no party affiliation, as neither of the two major parties – or even the smaller third-parties for that matter – really speak to how I perceive the world around me. I have been told that my non-affiliated stance only means that I am not seeing the world as it should be – by both staunch Republicans and Democrats that I know. To be honest, I am not arrogant enough to believe that what I perceive and what I believe is correct for anyone else, other than myself. And here in the United States, I am merely one of many, all with different and sometimes diametrical opposed ideas of how to proceed and/or process concepts and information.

Perhaps I am not “woke” in the area of politics and socio-economic standards as provided by other “woke” individuals. However, I am very cognizant of the social under-currents within society. I am also aware of how the laws, as applied by some corrupt and morally bankrupt members of law enforcement, can be utilized as a hammer against certain aspects of human society. I am also aware of how our current political system is being utilized by a few to construct a potential society of upper-class individuals that meet a certain requirement of enrollment that subjugates others to work for their benefit alone. Yelling and ranting about it on Facebook, and on Twitter, from my perspective, does very little about the issue – thus I tend to hide political sites, and individuals that tend to post nothing but politics and social memes railing in this manner. Perhaps, that means that I am not “woke” by someone else’s standards. So be it. But then again, I do not live my life for the approval of others.

Sounds rather heartless, right? I can grok that perspective. But if all you know about me is this screed that I am posting here, and you make a final judgment on who I am and what I believe – you are not digging deep enough. If you go back far enough in this blog, you will find posts where I disdain the concept of labeling people. That applies here as well. Essentially, society tends to fall to a grouping of people into two categories: “Us” and “Them”.  The “Us” crowd, we are comfortable with, we grok their perspective, and their ideals line up and fit quite nicely with our own. The “Them” crowd is to be resisted, attacked, and belittled as much as we can. In wars, human beings do this all the time. The Japanese were considered inferior because they could only copy what had been created, not create on their own. The Germans were vilified as blood-thirsty fighters who mindlessly followed their leader towards world domination. All Germans hated the Jews and were thrilled to have the concentration camps around to rid them of these sub-humans. And lists like this can be compiled from the annals of History. The reality is that there were many people in Japanese society who were/are creative and can create new materials. Most of the German citizenry had no idea what was happening within the concentration camps and were horrified to find out the truth when the war unraveled for them. Plus, there were those Germans who tried to find a way to save as many people as they could from being arrested by the Gestapo – risking their own lives to do so. Painting with a broad-brush of generalizations is a lazy way to deal with people who have differences from your own.

So, I will divulge one secret about me. And it is not really a secret, I just do not talk about it that much on social media. I loathe the concepts of ethnic labeling that occurs within our society. The Grants system within the collegiate environments in America is rife with this concept. Entire aspects of funding collegiate education are built around characteristics of race, ethnicity, gender, economic status, and even age. The idea is to “level” the playing field between the “haves” and have-nots”. I get that. I would rather that we fund people’s collegiate education based on the needs of our work-force rather than these factors. I do realize that there are Grants and funding centered around just these things, but I would rather categorize people by their desired field of endeavor than by things such as their gender and skin color. I would prefer to classify people as “human beings” rather than “Black, White, Asian, Pacific Islander, Native American, International, and Multi-race.” But again, I am just one person. And these classifications are mandated by the Federal government.

Being “woke” tends to be focused on how one perceives and/or agrees with whatever perspective of the individual judging the perspective “woke” person. Again, I do not live my life for the accolades applied by others. I am a Pagan, a Polytheist, and a Druid. I am a Priest of Crow. How I live my life is determined by me. Under the ‘woke” definition from Urban Dictionary is the notations of “how people should be aware of current affairs”, “knowing what is going on in the community”, and “being aware of the social. and political environments regarding all demographics and socio-economic standings.” From my own perspective, I feel that I absolutely do fulfill these aspects of the various definitions. Perhaps, the problem with being labeled as “woke” does not come from any particular meaning of the term, but rather whether your understanding of the issues relating to community, political, and socio-economic standards is in conjunction with the individual labeling you as such. To that, I can only smile to the individual that claims that I am not “woke” and move along. If I am perceived as not being “in-tune” with how politics effects me or how it affects others…that’s all right. If you have ever heard me sing, I’m definitely off-key.

#TwoQuid

–T /|\

Diving Deeply – Attempting a Different Approach at Learning

 

Crossposted at Moon Books Blogs at:  http://moon-books.net/blogs/moonbooks/?p=4393-2
With the coming change from one calendar year to another, there is always the desire to look back and place judgment on what was and was not accomplished in one’s last twelve months. There are all kinds of desires, goals, and needs that people try to attach to their lives – mostly specific, some more generic. We want to lose weight, stop cussing, make more money, get a better job, find true and everlasting love, eat healthier, do better rituals, cast stronger spells, become more of an activist for whatever cause we deem worthy (whatever that means), and the lists can go on and on. But we tend to find many of these “promises” to be shallow. Most of them are forgotten in a few weeks, as we settle back into routines that we have carefully cultivated over many years. And maybe that is the primary key to all of this – the planting, care-taking, and growth of routines that emphasize and strengthen the goals that we want to have. This was a thought process I started a few months back, around the time of Samhain – the time frame that I consider the true turning of the wheel. Over the last (approximately) sixty days, I have been tweaking various aspects of my life, trying to tune into where I wanted to go, and how I wanted to get there.
It is no secret that I work in a data-related field at a small two-year college in north Texas. One of my desires was to integrate lower-cost tools into my daily work practice, in order to provide more data-driven results to upper management, which would help them make better decisions that could potentially derive more successful results for the college as a whole. My choice of tool to learn has been R, a statistical processing application that can be utilized for a lot of different things. My experience with it, thus far, has been minimal. Mostly because I had very little idea of how to apply it to my everyday work. I needed to get a deeper understanding of what R was, what it was capable of, and then attempting to apply those techniques to my everyday work.
 
Another facet of my daily life that I have been working is my Ovate Grade work within the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids. I am only a few lessons in and already frustrated by the lack of progress I have made. My original intention was to move along using a calendar-based technique – where each lesson took (x) number of days. I found that I had severely underestimated the time frame necessary to work with what I had. And I broke a vow to myself not to restart the process of these lessons, and have reverted back to my first lessons. However, before I started, I decided to take the opportunity to try a different approach. I decided to go deeper into what I was learning and forget about the “how long” approach. However long it takes, is however long it will take.
 
In these sixty days, I started looking at my own concept of goals for both of these centers of knowledge. With the R material, I realized fairly quickly that I had unrealistic expectations of how I was and how quickly I could assimilate new knowledge. I needed to scrap everything I knew (and loathed) about statistical methodologies, strip it all down to the basic essentials, and rebuild from that point. As I am a very visual learner, I started to flowchart how I would get to where I needed to be to use R in a very basic sense. There are no waypoints in terms of time. It only took a few days to realize what a trap that was, and how that would only set me up for failure. I have a goal of learning R and putting it to practical use within my daily job routines. Whether that happens in March of 2018, 2019 or 2025 makes no difference to me. It is putting it to practical use within my job skillsets that matters to me. This is not a race against the clock, rather this is a desire to learn, grow, and mature a new technology and process into my world.
 
Once I managed to realize this for R, putting this into a format for my approach to my Ovate studies was fairly easy. The material is different, the application is different, but the overall sentiment is essentially the same. I wish to learn the Ovate material to improve my knowledge as a Druid utilizing the framework of OBOD. Through that knowledge, I will also improve my connection to the environment around me, as well as the environments beyond this physical one. My desire is to be the best Druid and Priest that I can be. There is no timeframe for this, merely a need to keep my desire to learn, grow and mature on this Path fed as it should be. 
 
With those formats in place, written out in my two journals that will serve as the records of what I learn and how I grow, I have spent the past few days resting from that effort and thinking about my plans – as well as what resources I will need to help me along the way. I would be foolish to think I could undertake this completely alone. There places on the internet that I can go to seek help with any R-related issue I encounter. In my Druidry studies, there are a handful of OBOD members that I could go to ask questions of. In both cases, I do not expect either of them to provide the answers to me for any of those questions. Furthermore, I have plenty of books from authors whose opinions I respect highly (many of whom have published with Moon Books), as well as magazines such as “Pagan Dawn”, where I can read articles on a variety of subjects that can also be helpful to my approach. With all of that said, let’s face a small reality, shall we?
 
No one is ever going to hand you anything in life. You want something, you are going to have to do the work associated with it. I want to learn R and use it heavily in my workplace. I will have to learn the programming language that governs it, as well as how to apply the R application to solve problems in the work environment, as well as understanding what problems it will be useful in solving, and which it would be inappropriate for. There will be no R Angel or Demon on my shoulder telling me what to try and not try. I am going to have to figure all that out on my own, through trial and error. By doing, observing, and failing. 
 
The same can be said for any aspect of my Spirituality. How I approach Paganism, Polytheism and Druidry are my own. Even if I do not choose to approach any of that. The decision of how, where, why, and when is my own. And with Crow in my life, I have to add one more thought to this:  should you feel the calling of a God or Goddess pulling you towards Their service, cajoling you towards Priesthood….remember this: if you accept, you are accepting the sole responsibility of the workload that will be expected of you. being called to be a Pagan or a Polytheist and be reverent of the Gods is one thing. Being pulled into the service of a God or Goddess is another matter altogether.
 
This is merely my opinion, but if all you are into something – a degree, a certificate program, a Spiritual training regimen – is for the piece of paper that acknowledges your effort towards completing assignments, tasks, classes, etc., then you are approaching it with the wrong frame of mind. Don’t get me wrong, I have two Masters degrees and a Bachelors degree, along with two (and in February, the third and final certification) professional certifications from a state-acclaimed organization for Institutional Researchers. The accolade you receive is a wonderful thing, and something to be celebrated, but it should never shadow the knowledge you gained from the classes, assignments, and training you received. For instance, the OBOD training program I am currently in has three levels – Bard, Ovate and Druid. I finished Bard. I am working on Ovate. I have a desire to finish Ovate, and work and finish my Druid level as well. But I also have to take into account that I may find that I have no need to finish Ovate and/or Druid. That wherever I manage to reach may be enough knowledge for me to be who I am. I certainly hope that’s not the case, but it is a possibility. And if it becomes a reality, I will be fine and content with that moment. But that’s not where I am at this moment. My goal is to finish. When?  I am not completely sure, but I am willing to work towards it and look forward to figuring that as I move forward.
The processes I have outlined are what works for me. I derived a lot of this from another concept called “diving deeply,” where an individual immerses themselves in the learning process for a technique, tool or skillset. My desire here is to make learning and using R as a part of my daily workflow, so that I can determine what works well for what I do on a daily basis, as well as what does not. My Ovate grade progression will also become a part of my daily routine, utilizing free-time at work, as well as time before and after my daily work. I am not going to just do the lessons and move on, I am going to take a few steps further – finding ways to implement some of the lessons as daily routines within my life. Some will find permanence in my life, some won’t. But I won’t know which is which until I try.
If you decide to give some aspect of this a try and it works for you….please teach it to others. For some, it may not work or be useful. Everybody learns differently. I am an “expert” on what does and does not work for me, and I hope that this methodology will prove useful for me so that I can add it to my own toolbox. But the only way you will find out if it does or does not work for you – is to try it. And whether it does or does not work for you, I hope that it does enlighten you in one way or another.
–T /|\

 

The Gods Are Alive – You Need Only Reach Out and Open Your Mind

A few nights ago, I was contemplating the legend/myth of Santa Claus. Seemingly, it is interesting that something near to this image of a jolly, older guy passing out presents is so far-reaching and encompassing throughout many cultures around the world. Perhaps, it can be attributed to the wider reach of Christianity throughout the entire world. Maybe. I would prefer to see it a little differently though. I believe that the underlying concept of freely sharing the joy and love of what human beings can be – regardless of nationality or race, is an easier concept to reach for so many.

We live in a world where conflict is common-place. So common-place that many of the conflicts are not readily reported in the news media. But then again, with most of the news media concerned with who hates the Sunkist-Orange President or where a “fascist” can be found that can be punched in the face – news is not as readily available since it does nothing to assuage the feelings of an extremely vocal few. And that is truly a post for another time.

No, the entire concept of Santa and gift giving is a wonderful sentiment to have. I would hope that it spreads to more than just a single day. And more than just six days throughout the entire year. As a myth or legend (whichever you prefer), it does make for an interesting study of just what myth and legend can mean to us as a global society. And not just religiously oriented myths. Myths and legends provide our somewhat monochrome, monotone world with color and expression.

In 2016, I attended a panel on Mythology at Pantheacon, where the discussion turned from the myths as we have told them prior to the addition of modern technology versus the addition of CGI and movie technology providing a new vision. And while I would posit that these modern adaptations of the myths, bear the marks of how the Hollywood producers and executives deem the Gods to be, or even how the Gods seem to be to the graphic novel writers and artists would dream the Gods to be; there is an impetus that these modern adaptations do bring people into Pagan traditions. These people may dabble in various traditions before they cast these off and find their own manner of approaching the world around them. And some of them may stay within a Pagan tradition, finding their own expression of the Gods that drew them in – ditching Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston as the embodiment of what the Gods may seem to be to them, and finding their own imaginative interpretations within their own minds and hearts.

Petroglyph Trail - Mesa Verde National Park

A narrow passageway along the Petroglyph trail in Mesa Verde National Park, where I came face-to-face with Crow.

As I noted in my “Static or Dynamic Mythology” post back in 2016, for me the Gods and Goddesses are alive – each their own individual manifestation. But the myths and legends are alive as well. Surely, some of these myths and legends have grown and adapted with the colorful additions of Bards and Storytellers throughout the ages. An embellishment that becomes believable is a true gift of a storyteller weaving his or her spell around a campfire. The same holds true for those same stories translated into a written word or onto the large screen of the movie theater. And given the desire of so many to purchase books, watch movies, and even tv shows geared to the myths and legends of our times – the thirst for the colorful nature of myth and legend is readily evident.

And the thirst is not even true for just movies or even mythology. To present that perspective, look to the X-Files tv shows and movies, which tackle many modern myths and legends. Aliens, shadowy government forces, and deep, hidden conspiracies are all a part of our modern cultural myths. Some are unlikely to be true, but it does provide some color to our black and dark blue suits, with the red ties and white shirts or even the more mysteries camouflage and olive drab uniforms.

Or perhaps, your concept of myths and legends is geared more to the far east with guardian monsters protecting the woods, mountains and streams o the island of Japan from the rampaging force of Godzilla (hat-tip to Mojo)? The idea of a monster created from the frightening and dangerous powers of nuclear energy is a rather modern one. Godzilla has been rampaging throughout Japan since the 1950s. Taking a rampant fear of nuclear technology and applying it to monstrous creations that destroy small-gauge railroad sets made to look like the Japanese cities and countryside, provided both a story that has become beloved and a more hidden warning of the need to respect the Kami that are literally everywhere.

Our myths and legends will continue to grow and deepen as we grapple with the questions of where we fit into the world, and even the universe, around us. And many of these myths, legends, and stories are adaptations of situations within our own lives – projected onto a wider screen than any monitor or television: our own minds. No offense to the amazing CGI and Hollywood writers, set designers, and animators – my own projection of Crow is more amazing than any special effect could make Him. And while I am not reliving any legend or myth (and I really don’t need to) – each day of my life is lived within a landscape of living Gods, Goddesses, Spirits of Place, and my own Ancestors. Every day brings me new experiences that have meaning, complexity, and depth to me. Paganism and Polytheism are not for everyone. And not every person will have similar experiences as I have. However,  without taking the time to explore, the patience to try multiple times, the desire to read and learn about where you are diving deeply into, and having an open mind to what you are experiencing – you may never know. The first step is wanting to.

 

Digging Ourselves Up in the Future

History is a subject that I devour like small candy pieces. Reading an individual’s interpretation as to how a group of people did or did not live in a time frame long lost to the empty reaches of time can sometimes be amusing or very eye-opening. And the manner in which a historian presents their perspective with the passion usually reserved for a special Lover can literally sell the reader’s belief in the right or wrong of what is being presented. How much of what is presented is reality, and how much conjecture?

That particular point has been one I have faced with some degree of amusement. I am sure there is a side of humanity, one hundred years in the future, that will look upon the presidency of the Sunkist Orange with a layer of amusement combined with a layer of awestruck horror. But that is not what I am referring to. Rather, I have wondered what the future may hold for the modern Pagan and Polytheist movements. How will the future archeologists of the future view someone living a dedicated Pagan, Polytheistic lifestyle? How would the small stone circle in my backyard be viewed through the backward facing lens of the future?

cropped-img_28671.jpgOf course, there is a lot more documentation of the meaning of such things through our blog posts, our own writings – which honestly are far more voluminous today than just a few decades in our own recent past. We have blog posts that spread throughout the world via the internet. There are podcast episodes that do the same thing, except via sound. There are YouTube channels of many Pagans talking about their beliefs, their practices, and even demonstrating some of their ritual techniques. And the books. The music. The storytelling. All a part of our legacy to the future – whether we intend it to be or not.

And will our intentions with all of that recorded history and thought be understood with the same intention it was made with? After all, the future history could be colored with a jaundiced eye that receives its primary instruction of belief from a society that is even more Christian-oriented than it is today. Or perhaps one where a spiritual belief of any kind has been abandoned for one reason or another. Perhaps, our digital media recordings have been wiped from recorded history because of some digital disaster. And the written, paper media has been dissipated and dissolved from the inevitable decay of time. That would mean that all that was left were the storytellers – left to repeat and reiterate the understanding of our history from generation to generation around the nighttime fires.

Yes, the storyteller has the chance to reign supreme if a complete failure of human society occurs. If the world suddenly becomes the nightmares depicted within the Mad Max movies, the storytellers will continue. And knowing the manner in which stories are misremembered within oral-only tellings, how much can our history become distorted? How much bias can be injected into the remembering of Pagans and Polytheists by the Storyteller themselves? Yes, there is power in the Spoken word; particularly if the written word is not there to provide a secondary reference.

Now I am painting a particularly gloomy future. But the same distortion can be found if a utopian, technology-driven society is in place. After all, a Pagan, Polytheist society can be wiped out by a societal group with sufficient numbers. What would these archeologists make of all of us? Would we be a backward society? Would we be a small, superstitious cult?

On the other hand, a society that grows into something our wildest dreams could not even contain may look at our current Pagan and Polytheist communities as individuals who had to fight for equality and proper recognition. And sometimes lost those battles. Perhaps an archeological dig would turn up our various ritual tools, and Pagan-eseque items. We could be scoffed at for our consumerist tendencies. Or our future generations may wonder how we could manage our rituals and home worship without this particular item or another.

All of this makes me wonder even more about how I might be perceived were my home be the site of an archeological dig. Would it be possible to tell the difference between my Pagan home versus those of my nearby neighbors, most of whom are Catholic? Should they be able to tell the difference, aside from my backyard stone circle? When it comes to our history, the cultural effects that we might leave behind as Pagans and Polytheists, could the future properly decipher who we were, what we believed, and how we lived? And if we are to create something that would provide these clues in an appropriate manner, how should our lives look?

And honestly, while these are great questions to marvel over – to tease some odd angles out of our thinking – much of this smacks of the old “Pagan Enough” movement of a few years back, for which I have a good deal of disdain for. A Pagan is a Pagan. It is not what they own, what they wear, who they have sex with, what books are on their shelves, or how large their compost pile is that makes them who they are. Its what is in their heart, and how they approach their concept of what is divine. It is about how they connect to their environment around them. And not one bit of that can be discerned by their photos, the clothes in their closet, who they read or what car they drive.  No, it is what is in their hearts and who they are – and the truth they have for themselves. And when we finally have the ability to leave that behind in something other than our writings and recordings – then we might be able to convey that to the future. But until that becomes possible, the clues we leave behind have just as much of a chance to confusing us as the clues left behind by our ancestors from prehistoric ages. Much like we are doing to our previous generations, our future generations will have to make the best-educated guesses that they can – and run the intermediate risks of being wrong.

Paganism and the Hacker Ethic: A Personal Perspective

If you have read the blog for any considerable amount of time, you know that my job is primarily focused on pulling data from a database – and getting the results ready for usage by various end users. I do this using SQL or Structured Query Language. It is a programming language, and to some measure, it is not. What it is, is a series of commands, set in motion against a framework that allows a database to retrieve requested data sets against a series of criteria – thus making it more of a toolset. My mind, from what I have been told by instructors and fellow Information Technology peers, is built for programming concepts. Loops, logical statements, retrieval arguments, correlating programming language syntax into something closer to Plain Language concepts…all things that come to me rapidly when using or learning a programming language. The terminology typically utilized as having a “programmer’s brain.”

And yes, that mentality gets applied to all kinds of things in real life. Grocery shopping, relationships, watching movies and tv shows, writing papers, taking vacations – everything follows a construct of variables, populating those constructs with data, and then utilizing that data. I have half-jokingly referred to cooking as “food programming”. So it is not much of a stretch for me to come to the world of hacking with a sense of awe and near reverence. But it is not the hacking you think it is.

Most people hear the word “hacking” and they think of the criminal world of the internet’s seedy underbelly. People doing programming tricks to skim half-pennies off of the interest from bank accounts (a popular ply utilized in the movies) or the illegal and unethical area of personal espionage, where people steal identities of others in order to get extended credit lines for nefarious means. There is definitely wizardry and skill utilized in these methodologies, but that’s not hacking. That is “cracking” which breaks the system and allows it to be exploited for unethical reasons. No, hacking is a different area altogether. In hacking, people try to figure out why something works and then seek to improve upon it. And if a security flaw is discovered, a hacker will try and fix the security flaw and report it to the owner of the program. Hacking is about taking something that has already been created, improving upon it, or using it as the basis for creating something new.

From Techopedia:

Hacker ethic primarily states and defines the ethical responsibility of a hacker, within their like-minded community. It was first coined by an American journalist, Steven Levy in his book Hackers: Heroes of the Revolution. Although this belief is highly appreciable within the hackers/hacktivism, it has no moral or ethical values in the general society. Typically, hacker ethics includes that whatever software, program or code a hacker develops must be open source, all the information is decentralized and is freely accessible and the overall knowledge must be shared and passed to other hackers.  (https://www.techopedia.com/definition/19706/hacker-ethic)

This, as a concept related to Information Technology, is something I highly believe in. As a concept related to my own daily life, I try and handle myself as closely as I can to this concept. This includes the way I handle my own daily practice within Paganism and as a Polytheist. I am not a reconstructionist, I am not trying to recreate something from the past. I am also not trying to build something new and full of rules. Thus, the decentralized part of the way I approach my understanding of Paganism. And while my daily approach is mine, and mine alone, I do not believe that I am adding huge amounts to the overall body of knowledge. Merely, the way I approach what I do know of Paganism and Polytheism.

Now, notice, I have not said anything about my Druidry. This is where my desire to live my life as close to the Hacker Ethic gets bumped and bruised – particularly the decentralized authority, freely accessible, and sharing of information. Mystery belief systems will always clash with these aspects of the Hacker Ethic.

Within the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids – the order I freely chose to work within the constructs and precepts of, there are closed aspects of the information that one learns that should not be shared. Initiatory experiences are meant to be experienced when encountered for the first time. Sharing the knowledge of the initiation with individuals who have not had this experience will lessen the power of walking into the unknown. I have done the initiations for both the Bardic and Ovate Grades. Sharing the knowledge of these initiatory experiences would rob others of those exhilarating moments. Just as I am sure that sharing the format, structure, and moments within any other initiatory experience would lessen the experiences of the initiate in other traditions. Also, within OBOD, the lessons for each grade should never be shared outside of the grades either. And for much the same reason. The Path that is walked in each of the grades is for the individual to experience and work with. Sharing those lessons, those experiences will do nothing for the individual traversing through that particular lesson. In a manner of speaking, it is similar to cheating on a classwork test.

Furthermore, the Hacker Ethic recognizes no concept of authoritative leadership. Within many aspects of Paganism, there is recognized aspects of leadership. A High Priest and High Priestess have their positions of leadership. It is not an issue of military command structure, but that leadership does have a degree of deference attached to it. Under the Hacker Ethic, I would have to choose not to recognize that authority within OBOD. And honestly, I cannot do that. I have too much respect for many of these people as individuals, as well as deference to their ability, talent, and tenure on their chosen Path within OBOD.

Give that the Hacker Ethic is a major part of who and what I am, how can I reconcile some of these differences with what I practice within my own Spirituality? Well, to quote Captain Barbossa from the first “Pirates of the Carribean” movie:

And thirdly, the code is more what you’d call “guidelines” than actual rules.

And that’s true of the Hacker Ethic as well. At least for me. Violation of any aspect of the Hacker Ethic means that I made a judgment call when I ran across a difference between what I thought to be “right” and what is on display within the Ethic. The idea behind the Hacker Ethic is a set of guidelines meant to advance knowledge around the TX-O and PDP-1 mainframes in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The sharing of information, in this case, programming code instructions, was meant to make the best applications possible for use on those two mainframe systems. The aspects of the Ethic were carried forward into nearly every aspect of life by those who practiced it. The only morality applied to the Ethic is the one embraced by the individual practicing it. And honestly, the morality of an individual writing code in the early 1960s is a far cry from the mercenary and larcenous hearts that were created from the greed and corporate mentality brought about by the rampant consumerism of the 1980s and 1990s.

I am a product of the decadent 1980s; I would never deny that. it definitely took a while for me to shake off the consumerism mentality of my time, and to adopt a different way of seeing the world around me. Paganism, Polytheism, and Druidry have taught me a lot about how to view the world differently, and how to change the concept of what “valuable” really means. Going back to the older ideals of what a hacker really was, as well as stripping away the bombastic image that Hollywood provided for the big and small screen, I came across the concept of the Hacker Ethic. This leads me to the evolving concept of Open Source, which is an off-shoot from the Hacker Ethic – and honestly, a little more evolved conversation within Information Technology. A decided left-turn off the round-about of where this blog sits.

Rest assured, my idea of Paganism is not reconstructive. My concept of Polytheism is one of sharing, discussing, and helping others to try and experience the Gods for themselves. A complete hands-on approach is very deeply held within the Hacker Ethic when it comes to learning and expanding knowledge. My Druidry, on the other hand, does not fit well into this paradigm…and there is no contradiction to that. Guidelines, not rules.

–T /|\