Remembering Where True Wealth Is…

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A morning sunrise from my backyard…

Hi! No, its not a blog post on a schedule. I am writing this as I wait for the sun to come up on a Saturday morning. Yes, I should be in south Texas, enjoying time with friends at the ADF Imbolc Retreat. But work and the world had other plans. So I am still up here in north Texas, for this weekend. Not what I had planned, but that’s all right. I’ll pout a little over this weekend, but I’m not going to come unglued over the change in plans.

Just shortly after I got home from my nightmare of Federal Reporting during my day of work, I found out that a friend of mine had passed away. Now, Fireman Bill and I were not particularly close, but at one time, he was in the role of being an unofficial mentor of mine. He taught me a lot about how to show people that you care, and the value of being there when you can. And while I am sad that he has passed beyond the veil, I’m also happy that our paths crossed in Life – even for the short time that it did. So, as I sit here and drink my morning coffee, I am reminded of his attitude in life.

From time to time, Life hands you a lemon and says “suck on that.” The question is not how you are going to react to being played a bad hand, but rather how you take that lemon or that bad hand of cards and move forward.

Let’s be honest here. Not everyday that I have is going to be full of cawing members of the Crow Squadron, pleased to see me. Not everyday is going to be filled with profound magickal moments. Not everyday is going to have people smiling, happy to see me, praising my work ethic, or pleased to have a deep, meaningful discussion. There will be bad days. Or as Cat Treadwell, someone I look up to in many ways (come on Cat – you are taller than me!), has said before – there are days that the Black Dog will visit. She wrote an excellent book, “Facing the Darkness” which deals with moments like this. Later today, I will likely pick this book up again, just to read her words for a few moments, and recalibrate my system. Yes, folks, its a very good book – and the words within it are worth far more than the price of the book itself.

This morning has been the start of that recalibration. I made a cup of coffee. I sat here at the keyboard of my MacPro, and I wrote my feelings of the morning. My personal journal is where I tend to vent these days. Its a safe place, but it is nothing compared to my personal inner grove. That is where I will move towards in my morning meditation as the sun comes up. My quiet moment in the backyard, facing the East, cup of coffee in my hand, and the bag of birdseed at my feet. And when I am finished, I will sit on the backyard patio for a few minutes and experience the solitude of the quiet morning. That will be the start of the morning for me. Just as it always is. Its my armor against the bad moments of the coming day. Its my moment of remembering that Life continues around me, no matter what happens.

I could pout and whine about the loss of my friend, or the fact that I didn’t get to attend a retreat that I was looking forward to. In fact, I did just a little while ago in my journal. But with that having past, its time to turn my attention towards the day ahead of me. To spend it remembering the memories of a guy that always had a smile on his face, and a massive bear hug for people – and the manner in which he touched everyone’s lives. Working towards finishing the lessons of my Bardic Grade with the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids. Looking at how much I have managed to accomplish with my personal determination, and how much these lessons have helped to shape who I am as a person.

The quote that tends to come to mind for most folks is “finding that silver lining”. For me, its not about finding some silver lining, its remembering how much my friends – both face-to-face and online – are such an important part of my life. I am lucky that I am in a financial position that provides me some degree of comfort. I am far luckier in the people that have touched my life in various ways, and those that continue to do so. That alone, is a wealth that cannot be counted anywhere – other than in my heart.

Seo le tús an lae – d’fhéadfadh na Déithe bhfabhar gach céim a ghlacadh agat inniu agus amárach

All I see Is….

In my job, I’m the “numbers guy”. I work for a college, so the primary number everyone wants to know is enrollment. How many students do we have in the college for the semester? How many students are taking English classes? And from that number flows other numbers. And those numbers combine into formulas to provide state and federal funding. This number flows into that number which is transformed into these numbers, which delineate where funding sources come from in another system that is based on another metric of calculations. So, I’m a hardcore statistics guy, eh? Not really.

Binary WorldThere’s another side to all of this. Connectivity. Understanding why certain numbers are. Statistics is not going to teach you a lot of that. For instance, enrollment is closely tied to the employment rate within the counties that my college serves. When the economy is good, more people have jobs, and hence do not have or need a lot of time to take college classes. Thus enrollment goes down. When the economy takes a down-turn, those that are forced out of jobs, see a need to improve or update their skill-sets – which means they tend to enroll in college classes to do so. But that’s still only part of the story. Its the part of the story that most people in my job position tend to stop at. I only wish there was an easy method to quantify and describe the students who come to the school. Because there’s a lot more than just numbers at play here.

Sure, you have probably guessed that I am talking about the individual stories of the students’ themselves. The single mother, balancing her full-time job with the college classes that she is taking, while being sure that she is there to raise her two very young children. Or the student that has decided to take control of his life after a second DWI and a short sojourn in a jail cell for a week. Or the high school sophomore, who has found that high school classes are not as challenging for him, so he comes to the college as a dual-credit student – earning college credits with the same classes that are satisfying his high school requirements. Or the older student, in her late sixties, looking to learn more about these “dang” computers. Each an individual story. Each with unique needs and wants for their respective lives. Each one, a number that adds to the enrollment in the college.

When I was hired, my interview process had a single question that threw me off guard:  “If there is one thing that you could tell people about data, what would you tell them?” In my typical fashion, I answered off-the-cuff, and as brutally honest as I could. When I left the interview, I felt that I had blown the interview because of it. I found it later, it was the cinching moment that won my interview committee into my favor.

Data is essentially a grouping of ones and zeroes. That grouping has meaning because of the symbolism we give to it. From that grouping of symbolism, we infer conclusions from what is represented. Looking backwards over data gathered in a similar time-frame with a similar set of symbolic inference from a prescribed period of time, we can analyze a trend of growth, reduction or stagnation – all dependent on how we interpret the rise, fall and plateau of the numbers. But. Those numbers are representative of far more than just enrollment or the number of A grades given out by an instructor in a certain class taught on a certain campus. There are stories behind those numbers. Each student has a different reason for coming here to this college and taking the classes that they take. Every grade presented by an instructor in a class is reflective on how the instructor taught the class, but only when the balance of the student work is compared to the grade given. If we choose to dig only deep enough to find Success rates, Failure rates, and Withdrawal rates – we will certainly find a narrative that can be created for the casual reader of the derived analysis reports. But we miss the larger picture of who our student body is. We begin down the slippery slope of making our students into numbers, and setting our college’s diplomas as a piece of paper that when stamped, merely states that the student is capable of following instructions. When we decide not to turn over the data rocks to see what kind of student we have, we tread down a very dangerous path. I would tell people that data is more than just numbers, counted and regurgitated statistics. Those numbers are people. And they should be treated with the respect that they deserve, even while we work the sterile process of finding our associated head counts and rates.

But that’s where digging into the connectedness of things comes into place. The fox continues to crawl under your fence, come up on the porch, and eat your cat’s food. Why? Perhaps, if you looked around the neighborhood a little bit, you would notice that there is a wooded area that is being cleared for a strip-mall. Remember, the fox has been your neighbor all along. The fox has fed on rodents and other small animals in the area – keeping their population in check, so that they do not over-strip some of the plants. Those plants, until they were torn down for the strip-mall, blocked out the sounds of the nearby interstate, provided fresh and clean air to the immediate area. Now those plants are gone. That being the home environment for the smaller animals – they fled elsewhere. That left the fox with the need to find food elsewhere. Connectivity.

Certainly, people can look at the numbers and make inferences. Its easy to that because data is sterile. You don’t readily see it, except for the symbolic presentation given to you on your computer screen or printout. And while I dislike the sliminess of Cypher from the Matrix, I have to agree with him on one thing, where data representation is made

I don’t even see the code. All I see is blonde, brunette, redhead.

Pagan Community – Something to Believe In

Music does a lot for me. Its the soothing sound in the background. Its also something that makes my brain percolate around topics. While writing the previous post on ritual – I found myself straying into the topic of the Pagan Community. Don’t ask me how I get there, it just happens. But one thing was a marker of sorts for me – “Something to Believe In” by Poison.

Ok, I get it.  Hair bands are not exactly popular things these days. And I do remember a documentary where the late Ronnie James Dio – someone I respect immensely – stated that Poison and bands like them essentially killed heavy metal. I disagree with Ronnie, and am floating a little beyond the topic – but it definitely was this one song that keeps coming back to mind. So bear with me as I drag a piece of my mis-spent youth into the picture (look what the Elf dragged in!). Ok folks, you can put down the fruit, vegetables, and eggs you are about to start throwing.  I’ll get back to the topic!!

I have been around Pagan communities, in one form or another, during most of my thirty-plus (cough cough) years on my Pagan path. I’ve watched how groups start out like a rocket headed for deep space, and eventually lose momentum over things such as internal politics, and inane power struggles. When I was much younger, and far more idealistic, I would actually roll up my sleeves and pant legs – and wade right into the middle of things. Now, as I am older and have far less energy to fight the same battles over and over. I usually pack my tent and head home.

At work (pick a job, any job), I have a penchant for being a troubleshooter. I fix things. I find trends. I try to create solutions. And in the workplace, this is a touch easier. Everyone has the same vested interest – to make the company go, so we can make money through the purchase of our company’s products, and wind up being paid a paycheck, and have our insurance benefits covered. Vested interest = vested attention. Much easier to communicate with people.

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The definition of Intentional Community

Its a little harder to do the same thing with the Pagan Community. Many people will join up in a banding of the Community (think Pagan Pride Days, as an example). They will be excited about what the project can bring. How Pagans everywhere can benefit from what is being done. There may be a wide, diverse representation of the Pagan Community involved. And while everyone is gathered, there will be visions of the direction that this can take. Notice. visions. Plural. Everyone will have an idea of how this grouping of folks can benefit their small corner of the Big Tent (to borrow a phrase from the marvelous writings of John Beckett). The original organizers will have an idea how their event or project can benefit the community, as well as providing a springboard for the benefit of smaller groups and individuals. And thus will begin the inevitable herding of the cats.

I have watched this happen many times over. And honestly, it is frustrating, but its also a very sad moment. When people and groups set their own agendas ahead of one that benefits the entire Community. I watch people step away frustrated, jaded and confused. Their goal and intention was to build something that everyone else can utilize as a place to bring their own intentions and dreams to showcase for others. Instead, they get a front row seat to the squabbles, bickering, and posturing of others who sweep aside the wider goal, and subjugate it to their own.

I feel like I am writing an early Black Sabbath song here. All doom and gloom.

Generals gathered in their masses,
just like witches at black masses.
Evil minds that plot destruction,
sorcerer of death’s construction.
In the fields the bodies burning,
as the war machine keeps turning.
Death and hatred to mankind,
poisoning their brainwashed minds…Oh lord yeah!

But. The reality is that not all is doom and gloom. In a few days (less than two weeks and counting), I will be boarding a plane (flying again…sigh) and headed to California for PantheaCon 2016. I have heard stories about things that happen at this Con. Like any gathering, there will be some form of drama. But I have heard about some lovely conversations that come out of PantheaCon. And I am interested in what there is to offer. Thus the reason that I decided to go. And I haven’t even made it through airport security, and I have already made contact with a lot of people that are wanting to talk. Not just to promote something that they have – but also just to talk. To get to know one another. To fellowship together. To pursue ideas. To discuss, and maybe even some light debate. Nothing that could start some “witch war” between us, just respectful disagreement followed on with exploration of those disagreements to find where root agreement flourishes. In other words – practice what a community is.

DFW Pagan Pride Day 2013

DFW Pagan Pride Day 2013

I saw this at the first Pagan Pride Day I worked with at White Rock Lake here in Dallas (2013). I have seen this in action at the ADF Imbolc Retreat that I attended last year (and going to again this next weekend). I saw this at Austin’s marvelous Pagan Pride Day this past year, where I travelled all the way from north Texas in one morning to have a wonderful interview with Chris Godwin (who I will see again next weekend). Pagans who come together, talk, discuss, play, hug, hold light arguments over differences, sing around the fire, pour libations to the Gods – and generally celebrate the fact that we are all Pagans, Christians, Atheists, or what have you….but above that, we are all human beings.

While I am saddened by the events, projects, groupings that have failed for one reason or another – my heart is gladdened by the fact that there are people who overcome these obstacles and keep things on track. Yes, people. While it is a group of people who make things go – keep the project on track; its still individuals who set aside their own personal agendas and desires to make things go that are the ones to be heralded. Eventually, they get afforded the spot to bring their own individual agendas to the forefront. They are provided the spotlight and the stage for their own ideas. That same spotlight and stage that they helped to build for others to do the same.

Eventually, the talking stick comes around to you. Just as the chalice may come to you within the bounds of a ritual. You wind up with a choice. You can drink from the Chalice, or you can hoist the Chalice in a salute to the Gods and Goddesses that call to you. I have passed the Chalice so many times when it is presented to me. I am hoping that I get the chance at PantheaCon to hold the talking stick for a little bit, but I am looking forward to sitting and listening. Communing with my fellow PantheaCon attendees.

Remember, I had referenced Poison’s “Something to Believe In” at the beginning of the post?  Well, here’s where I add it back in again.

I drive by the homeless sleeping on a cold dark street
Like bodies in an open grave
Underneath the broken old neon sign
That used to read JESUS SAVES

A mile away live the rich folks
And I see how they’re living it up
While the poor they eat from hand to mouth
The rich is drinkin’ from a golden cup

And it just makes me wonder why so many lose, so few win

You take the high road and I’ll take the low road

Sometimes I wish to God I didn’t know now
The things I didn’t know then
And give me something to believe in

Well, to be frankly honest, as I watch Pagan after Pagan come out of the shadows – unafraid to be who they are. I am giving that hope for something to believe in. I have the hope that a widely diverse Pagan community can come together, discuss differences, debate definitions, and at the end of the day hug one another over what holds us together. Can it be done?  Certainly. One only has to look at PantheaCon has accomplished, even with the dramatic moments. It can be done. It has been done. It will continue to be done. Its all a matter of growth, growing up, and some folks stepping through the doorway to be leaders – both loud and quiet, brash and shy, through words and actions. And because of that, I am excited by what the prospect of the future brings for the Big Tent. From my perspective, I definitely have something to believe in for this widely diverse community we are all a part of.

 

Free-Form Ritual – Knowing It

I’m a huge fan of the movie “The Matrix“.  Stop me if you’ve heard me say this before.

 

Damnit.  Ok, just humor me for a few minutes.

As I mentioned, I am a huge fan of the movie “The Matrix“. There is one scene in particular that resonates very deeply with me. That’s the sparring program, where Morpheus spars with Neo.

Morpheus makes the statement to Neo – “Don’t think you are, know you are.” Its this statement that I am building this post around.

I have mentioned a few times that ritual is not one of the major aspects of either being a Pagan or being on a path of Druidry. However, its not really ritual that is the problem for me. Its the structured aspect of ritual. The rote statements for calling the directions. The memorized lines. For me, too much structure kills the moment. Its probably better explained from a previous post:

Well, perhaps the best way to describe it is with the phrase: “its just Jazz, man.”  The musical form of Jazz is so vibrant and alive, in my opinion. The musician doesn’t just play the music, they play the music that’s inside of them. No true set form, Jazz is improvisational – coming from within, to be played as a tribute to the world around the musician in that moment. There are many people that find this style of playing harmonious, beautiful, and very in the moment. I am one of those people. But there are others who find it discordant, out of sync, and sometimes just purely random. I can understand that. Not everyone has the same connection to the world around them. Some folks prefer a bit more structure to what they do.

Just as I may find structure kills the inspiration, the vibrancy of the moment – others like the structure. They find harmony with the rote movements and statements. Its provides them with comfort, and gives them depth of understanding. It works for them, but not me.

There are only two rituals that have any level of consistency in form with me. One is my morning ritual of greeting the sunrise. The other is spending a few moments to say goodnight to the sun as it slips over the horizon. Begging for a promise that it will return again in the East. But even that is full of changes from time to time.

Sometimes, I will stand silently and watch the sun rise or set. Other times, I may silently intone the Awen chant. And other times I may say it out loud…as a whisper, or a conversational voice, or even shouting it. Whatever the moment holds for me. Don’t think I am, know I am.

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My backyard circle at the old house in Corinth

My belief system is full of experience. Not XP, like you get in a Dungeons and Dragons table-top game. Experiential. Feeling the moment. Experiencing all aspects of it. One particular morning that I can easily recall is a quite Summer morning sometime around two-plus years back. The morning weather forecast called for rain showers to start shortly after sunrise. When I stepped outside, I could feel the muggy atmosphere all around me. I could smell the aroma of the rain in the air, mingling with the smell of the flowers on the vines of the bush that was growing outwards to cover my backyard window. I could hear the quiet little chatter of the birds, as they gathered nearby, anxiously awaiting the birdseed I had in the two plastic drinking cups I was carrying with my left hand and arm. In my right hand was my cup of coffee, steaming silently, even in the humid, hot air of the morning. I approached the bird-bath, set the bird seed cups down, and stared off into the darkened horizon of the East. The sun would come up behind the clouds, so I would not catch a glimpse of the rays as the Sun rose over the rooftops that made up my suburban horizon. But I knew I would experience the moment of its arrival, as the sky would dim slightly before being a dimly light sky. I drink my coffee in short little sips, tasting the mix of Splenda sweetener with the sugar-free Hazelnut creamer. The slight bitter taste of Community Coffee with the nuances of these tastes is the perfect punctuation to my waiting time. And as the sun started to lighten the cloudy skies, I lifted my coffee cup to the East, and silently bid the Sun a good morning. And as I set my coffee cup down in the two inches of water that comprised the bird-bath’s depth, I heard the song “Days Between” from the Grateful Dead playing in my mind. As I poured handfuls of birdseed into my hand, and scattered it across the ground – I remembered the visuals that are prompted from the lyrics.

When all we ever wanted
Was to learn and love and grow
Once we grew into our shoes
We told them where to go
Walked halfway around the world
On promise of the glow
Stood upon a mountain top
Walked barefoot in the snow
Gave the best we had to give
How much we’ll never know
We’ll never know

For me, moments such as that do not come a second time. And while someone may claim that not to be a ritual. I am reminded that many people do not consider Jazz to be music, but rather dissonant noise. Free-form ritual may not look like ritual to others, but for me – its that jazz-style poetry that rises up in the branches of the trees.

I don’t think it, I know it.

Thanks for humoring me…..

Paganism: Forty to Fifty Years…Maybe

The Wild Hunt has a featured article on “where Paganism will be in 100 years“. Eight individuals were asked to provide their perspectives, including John Beckett. Now I’ve known John for a while, and his perspective was not that surprising to me. And honestly, its a perspective I can share in to some degree. The other seven folks also had very different views on where the next hundred years will/may take us – the Pagan community – into the unknown future.

I thought this was an interesting exercise, so I have decided to provide my own perspective. Except I am not going to head quite that far down the road. Instead, I am going to aim at a patch of time:  forty-to-fifty years. Why?  Because trying to foresee the future is really difficult stuff. And while one-hundred years makes for an interesting barrier that goes just far enough down the road and past the horizon, for me that’s a bit too far for my failing eyes (thank you, diabetes type-2) to glimpse.

First off, I have no special dispensation on what the future may or may not hold. In fact, I’m nowhere near being enough of a social scientist to even predict fads, trends, and social changes. All of which can factor into how something as personal as religious beliefs and practices can be discerned. In fact, I’ll stop and point out that everything I note here is merely my own jaundiced perception of the immediate future being projected against the back wall of the room while the lights are dim.

I would hope, in my heart of hearts, that human kind would learn to be more caring and favorable to one another. The current election cycle put a claw hammer through the skull of that dream. With politicians bandying about hateful and hurtful remarks against people of a racial or religious background, there’s a lot more territory to cover before that happens. With protest movements continuing to focus on the barriers that divide us, rather than on how removing those barriers changes the focus, I just don’t see where people are going to alter their perception to that of all people being equal, and worthy of respect. That battle, I do believe, will continue to be the same uphill struggle that we currently push against.

Paganism, from a wide-ranging “umbrella” or “big-tent” notation, will continue to grow. I have heard statements tossed around that liken Pagan belief systems as some of the fastest growing segments of religious belief on the face of the planet. Perhaps that is so, perhaps not. But I do see more and more Pagans stepping forward publicly with their beliefs, unafraid of the social stigma that it may or may not carry. I can only see that growing in strength and in numbers. I’ve been a public Pagan for most of my life – just a touch under thirty years now. In the beginning, I was public because I had the protection of being in a closed community – the United States Air Force – where my right to believe and worship as I wished was somewhat protected. I have delighted in Pagans continuing to embrace their beliefs openly, and shed the social stigma attached with Paganism, as if it were merely a straw blanket placed over them. In forty to fifty years? Perhaps Pagans will be in widely viewed jobs, such as television journalism – openly Pagan on the air, and willing to share the same space cordially with non-Pagans. Or, perhaps forty to fifty years might be a touch too soon, and such a change will take place shortly thereafter.

In a political and social environment that seems to value and desires to protect our natural surroundings, I continue to see hope. However, I see change as being far slower than I had imagined it would be fifteen years ago. We still have a major segment of the world community that views the Earth as a natural resource to consume and use at their whim, not as a part of the environment that we all make up together. Where will all that be in forty or fifty years? I would hope much further along, but I fear that any major changes won’t be made until we have done irreparable damage to our relationship with Mother Earth.

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

There were a few points made about Temples and Sacred Space – particularly that it will come quickly, and that our overall world community would embrace such locations for the religious aspects that they bring. In all my traveling around the United States over the past three years, I have only seen one location that was held up for its sacredness. That was Medicine Wheel in the Wyoming Bighorn Forest, near Medicine Mountain. And when I visited, in the middle of Summer, I was one of three people there. Not much of a visited place, other than by the local First Nations’ tribes that utilized it for their own ceremonies. Other places, such as Glacier National Park, the Badlands, and Mesa Verde – had the feel of a tourist attraction, rather than the sacred locations that they are. I am left to wonder, in forty to fifty years, will the attitude towards such places change? Would building temples to the Gods attract the believers or would it attract the sight-seekers with their selfie sticks, merely there to take a photo proving they were there? I am not completely sure, which of those would truly took hold in that time span, much less within the next one-hundred years.

A trail along a cliff face in Mesa Verde

I know. Rereading all of this, it seems a somewhat bleak picture. That perhaps Paganism will not took hold in the rocky soil we are trying to plant it. But surely, I would say that the future of Paganism is quite bright. As more come to know their connectivity to their surrounding environment; how they are not apart from their world as conquerers, users, and abusers — the future for Paganism begins to shine. Where people who choose the path of Paganism can shed their dark cloaks and step out of the shadows, free to be who they are – without fear of reprisal or social stigma. For me, that is what my fight with the United States Air Force in gaining chapel space for Pagan rites was all about. Not to shove my beliefs down someone’s throat. Rather it was about being able to step out into the public light – free to be who I am, without shame or fear. And that, my dear friends and readers, is what the next forty to fifty years will attain. The freedom for those who come after us – the generations yet to step on to the paths of Paganism – to be who they are. And never to fear the burnings, the beatings, the fear or the shame of others. Whatever else I may believe, this I will continue to fight for it to come to fruition. And I know many others will too.

Jimmy Bain – Rest in Peace

This morning, I logged on to Facebook to check and see what my friends were doing. Its a simple moment for the start of each day. It takes about five minutes normally. My emphasis is on my overseas friends, since our time clocks are a little different, and their daytime is usually starting in my night-time. Afterwards, I do a quick check of the news to see if there’s anything interesting to read, and then I log out to go feed my feathered and furred friends in the neighborhood. This morning was a little different. One of the first things I noticed was a story about the death of bassist Jimmy Bain.

jimmybainMost people won’t know who Jimmy Bain is/was without a touch of context. He was the first bassist in Dio, the band that he helped form with the late Ronnie James Dio (vocal), Vivian Campbell (guitarist), and Vinnie Appice (drums). He was also the bassist for Rainbow in the mid 1970s (played on their “Rising” album, as well as the first live album that Rainbow released), as well as forming Wild Horses with guitarist Brian Robertson. He was also one of the two key figures in the heavy metal aid project Hear ‘n Aid which donated profits from album and single sales for the song “Stars” to hunger relief in Africa. The other half of that equation being Vivian Campbell – both were current members of Dio at the time.

Jimmy Bain, for me, was far more than just some yutz bassist for a rock group. His style and sound were based on the idea of simplicity for rhythm. The bass was not something that stood out and grabbed you by the throat, like Steve Harris with Iron Maiden. There was a necessity to maintain rhythm, keep a time signature moving in the undercurrent of the song – be the pillar on which the rest of the band can move around. In my youth, I idolized Metallica bassist Cliff Burton, whose style was very much an “in your face” methodology. For me, no bassist is above his style. After that, Geddy Lee, Billy Sheehan, and Les Claypool with their virtuosity with the instrument are near the tops. But players like Bain – smooth, steady, in the background at all times – are rarely mentioned. And yet their contributions to songs, both live and in the studio, provided the clean backdrop for the soaring style of guitarists, keyboardists, and vocalists everywhere. It took a while for me, a solidly poor amateur player in my own right, to understand.

Jimmy Bain was much more than all of that. He is a human being, and has his own personal story to be told. But I never knew the guy on that level. I only knew what I read in the tabloid style magazines such as Hit Parader and Kerrang – most of which can be discarded as utter tripe.

Currently, my morning is being filled with the sounds of Bain’s time in Dio and Rainbow. And having just visited his homeland – Scotland – I am remembering my time there just this past December. Many people will gloss over his death, including fans of the music that he played. He certainly wasn’t one of the “out front” members – but his contribution was a solid part of everything that you heard.

Jimmy, may you find rest beyond the veil. You will certainly be missed on this particular plane of existence. /|\

 

Service to the Gods – Without Apology or Regret

Service for a God or Goddess. What’s it like? What does it mean to someone? Why do it in the first place? As someone who has one particular God sitting over my shoulder, a Goddess in flirtation mode at the moment, and another God that provides lessons from time to time…and someone who is open about all of this, as well as knowing that the Gods, Goddesses, Spirits of Place and Ancestor exist – I get these from time to time. Some of its sarcastic in nature, other times its meant in a joking manner (as if I were crazy in the head), and sometimes its a serious inquiry. Regardless of which manner of questioning, its real for me. I do believe. What others may or may not think or believe in regards to that is of no consequence to me. I do believe.

So, what is it like to be in service to a God or Goddess? Well, its not like I am being asked to be an Indiana Jones type and retrieve artifacts and put those back into their appropriate locations. Nor am I being asked to locate runaway teens, slit their throats, and draw mystical symbols on the wall using their blood. If that’s the type of stuff you think its all about – congrats, you’ve been watching way too many b-rated movies. I do have a service I am to do as directed by Crow. The podcast serves that purpose – bringing the voices of Paganism towards the forefront. Its not about making people believe in Paganism, rather its about setting those voices where they can be heard. Those listening will make up their own minds. And honestly, I would tend to believe that most of the Gods and Goddesses are likely to want people to come to them on their (the people) own accord. There’s also other requests that get made from time to time – but its far more mundane than one would think. Building feeding stations for wildlife. Taking stewardship of a particular area (think along the lines of picking up trash). And that’s just where I am concerned. Many others who provide services to the Gods and Goddesses that call to them will have various other services and requests that they (the people) choose to do.

That’s right. Choose. I choose to do what is requested of me. I can always turn and say “no”. But I don’t. That’s my choice. Many folks that I have discussed this with have mentioned that I may be possessed by a demon or spirit and am compelled to follow what I am told to do. That’s just not the case. I do what is asked of me, because I choose to do so. It really does come to just that.

So, what’s it like? What does it mean to me? Why would I do it?

Well, serving the Gods is like anything else in my daily life. I do what is asked, and I do what I need to do to survive in this capitalistic, monetary-hungry world we all live in. I work to make a living just like anyone else. I do my morning observance of the sun’s rising as I normally do. I provide the crow squadron outside my building with leftovers from my lunch, as an offering back to Crow. And I continue to try to make the presence of the podcast better known, so as to follow the request I was given:  to provide a voice to the Pagan community through the podcast. And where the podcast is concerned, I am providing one of many voices…I’m not the be-all, end-all of the podcasting world – and have never, ever claimed to be such.

For me, following the call of a particular God, God, and Goddess is about honoring what I am: a polytheist. I believe in the Gods and Goddesses. I believe they are all separate entities that exist. I attempt to honor who they are through my daily tasks, living my personal life, and offering service to them when and how I can. The meaning of living my life in such a way provides me with the comfort of honoring them in my own manner. Sometimes, the tasks are lessons that I learn as I move through my daily life. Sometimes, the reward of accomplishing a task is a bit more physical, and substantial – such as watching the birds of the neighborhood eat their fill of birdseed left within my stone circle in my backyard. But the real meaning comes from fulfilling my promise, my oath to being who I am without apology or regret.

Why would I do this type of thing? Because of who and what I am. And because of what I have experienced as a Pagan. As a Druid. As a person. As I said previously, I’m a Pagan. I’m a Druid on my Bardic Grade within the framework of the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids. I am a denizen of this planet. And the Gods are here. And they are real. Of that, I have no doubt.